All who knew Robert Bowman would agree that he was a blessing in the lives of everyone he met. It was easy to see after only a few minutes with him that his life was rooted in something different, something deeper, and that something was his faith. Robert’s faith never wavered, even when the storms of life came his way, and he faced everything that came his way with courage, strength, and unwavering character. He was a hard working man who was well respected as a longtime businessman in his community, but he was also humble and generous toward others. A devoted family man, Robert adored his wife, children, and grandchildren more than anything on this side of heaven. He will never be forgotten.
The 1920s were a vibrant and prosperous time in American history when ballroom dancing, jazz music, and motion pictures in both color and sound colored the cultural fabric of our nation. It was also during the Roaring Twenties that George H. and Inga (Bing) Bowman were eagerly anticipating the birth of their new baby as the summer heat blanketed the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1928. The big day finally arrived when the baby boy they named Robert G. drew his first breath. He was the second of seven children in his family, and he was raised in the family home on 28th Street near US 131 alongside his siblings, Avis, Gladys, Dave, Mary Lou, Deloris, and Jerry. Robert’s mother was a homemaker while his father supported their family as a tool and die maker at Jarecki Machine and Tool Company, and at General Motors. His father was a man of many talents. For a number of years he built or bought homes, moved his family in them, and after completing or refurbishing them, he’d sell them.
In many ways, Robert was a young boy of his generation. He and his family were members of Wealthy Street Baptist Church, and he attended the local schools. Robert loved the outdoors and could often be found hunting as well as swimming and fishing in Plaster Creek. Hard working right from the start, the days of the Great Depression often found Robert and his father walking the railroad tracks collecting coal to heat their home. To earn money to help his family, Robert also picked up glass along the way to later sell for a profit, often hopping the train to get around. In addition, Robert worked delivering dental products from Davis Dental to local dental offices. He went on to attend Central High School, but like many during these years, he left school after the tenth grade.
When our nation became involved in World War II, Robert joined the United States Marine Corps, but before he officially signed he decided to join the Army instead so he could be part of the Dental Corps. Robert spent two years serving as a Tech Sgt. in the Dental Corps in Korea for two years. With his military duties fulfilled, he had some help getting his own dental lab, Bowman Dental Laboratories, up and running. Robert went on to own and operate his business for 56 years. He was very well respected in the dental industry and employed up to 40 people at his shop. Always looking to be on the cutting edge, Robert created the first porcelain jacket crown in the industry.
Not to be forgotten during his years as a young man was Robert’s introduction to the young woman with whom he would share a lifetime of love. Her name was Lois Edsenga, and they met while rollerskating. They began dating, and over time they found themselves deeply in love. With a desire to establish a life together, Robert and Lois were united in marriage on October 14, 1948, at Wealthy Street Baptist Church. The newlyweds initially settled in Big Rapids, and later moved to Holland before settling in Grand Rapids. At first they had a place on Marryfield, then Edith, and eventually moved to a home on Tremont Boulevard where Robert grew the most beautiful roses. They later settled into their Cummings Street house in Walker where they spent the next 30 years. Together Robert and Lois welcomed three boys including Robert in 1951, William in 1956, and Dan in 1959 into their hearts and home. As a family they attended Wealthy Street Baptist Church and later Calvary Undenominational Church. For the last several years, First Evangelical Covenant Church was their church home. As a family some of their favorite times were spent staying in a rental cottage on Silver Lake, which they did for 13 years. It was truly a vacation place for Robert’s family where treasured memories were created.
As his family and friends can attest, Robert was a genuine outdoorsman through and through. He was always outside, whether hunting, fishing, or just spending time in the woods. Robert hunted deer, wild turkey, elk, mule deer, antelope, pheasant, duck, and rabbit from everywhere including Canada, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Alabama, and Kentucky. For years Robert had a route delivering his product from Allegan and Plainwell to Kalamazoo, and on his way back he always stopped to fish at his favorite spots along the way. He also made all of his own fishing poles and casting rods. For years Robert had about 40 acres on the White River and built a pole barn, which he later expanded for living space. A man who appreciated God’s good earth, Robert loved working the soil with his hands. He grew shrubbery and trees for a tree farm, and also added a trout and bluegill pond for his family to fish from. He cooked a great breakfast and also made amazing game dinners on the grill.
For years, two of Robert’s sons, Bill and Dan, worked alongside him in his dental business. After retiring, Robert sold the business to them in 1999. During his retirement years Robert had even more time to spend doing the things he loved. He and Lois often spent a couple of weeks in Florida each year where he loved big game fishing for tarpon, bone fish, and mahi mahi. Robert also spent more time at the farm during the spring, summer, and fall. He loved being a grandfather and spending time with his grandchildren whenever he could.
Robert Bowman was a hardworking, honest, trustworthy, and intelligent man whose life was centered on Christ. His unwavering faith was a cornerstone, and his devotion to his family was unmatched. Deeply loved by everyone he met, Robert will be dearly missed.
BOWMAN Robert G. Bowman, aged 86 of Walker, MI, went to be with his Lord and Savior on Sunday, March 29, 2015 at Trillium Woods Faith Hospice. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Lois Bowman (Edsenga); his children, Bob (Crystal) Bowman, William (Karen) Bowman, Dan (Glenda) Bowman; his grandchildren, Rob (Diana) Bowman, Scott (Megan) Bowman, Terry (Anthony) McKinley, Erin Bowman, Leanne (Matt) Zietlow, Jamie Bowman, Kelly (Chris) Fite, Stacy (Josh) Cruce, David Bowman, grandson-in-law, John Carter; great grandchildren, Jacqueline, Robert, Nathaniel, Jackson, Braylon, Kallie and Samara; his sisters and brothers, Avis Guyot, David (Nancy) Bowman, Mary Lou (John) Beck, Deloris Fingelton, Jerry (Becky) Bowman; many nieces, nephews and friends. Robert was preceded in death by his parents, Inga and George Bowman, his sister, Gladys (Phil) Burton and his grandson, James Bowman, and his granddaughter, Dana Carter. Robert honorably served his country in the US Army during the Korean War. He owned Bowman Dental Laboratories for 56 years. He was an avid outdoorsman, hunter and fisherman. He was a loving and dedicated husband, father grandfather, great grandfather, brother and a friend to all who knew him. He will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered. A service to celebrate Robert’s life will be held on Saturday, April 4 at 11:00 AM at First Evangelical Covenant Church, 1933 Tremont Blvd. NW. Burial in Rosedale Cemetery. Relatives and friends may meet his family on Friday from 2-4 and 6-8 PM at Heritage Lifestory Funeral Home – 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Contributions in his memory may be made to Faith Hospice Trillium Woods.