Irma Bowman was raising two sons on her own in the 1960s, soldering parts for military aircraft in San Diego County, when she left the boys with a trusted neighbor and attended a square dance. That night, she met her soulmate.
Roy Bowman, a soil scientist with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, was taken by Irma from the start, and even in courtship treated her boys, about 9 and 12, as his own. They married the next year, 1965.
Irma and Roy Bowman had been married 52 years on Oct. 9 when fire burned through their Redwood Valley community in the heart of Mendocino County, destroying their Fisher Lake Drive home and with it family photographs from the 1800s, Irma Bowman’s charcoal drawings and keepsakes from the boys’ childhoods.
They died in their home. She was 88, and he 87.
“They were always together,” said one of their sons, Gary Bowman of Medford, Oregon.
At age 15, Irma Bowman left Wisconsin with her mother, Mary Wobschall, and headed to California after an uncle got a job with the San Diego Union newspaper.
Roy Bowman grew up on a cattle ranch in Falls City, Oregon, the same property where he’d later take his family for visits and put the boys to work chopping wood. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, and 30 years later retired as a lieutenant colonel in the reserves.
The Bowmans moved to Mendocino County in the 1970s when Roy was transferred to the Ukiah office. They settled into their home on a wooded cul-de-sac in the north end of the valley.
Devout Christians, the unassuming couple became bedrocks in the community and at Ukiah Assembly of God. They hired out-of work neighbors to fix things at the house. They replaced a woman’s stolen savings meant to support a missionary trip. They helped a mother keep up with tuition payments.
In a phone call Oct. 7, the day before fires began igniting across the region, Irma and Roy Bowman — always both on the line — last spoke with their son, Gary. He was to drive down the next day to help around the house. Roy had suffered a stroke in March, and Irma had taken on all household duties, even finishing sentences when her husband stumbled on the words. She insisted her son wait to visit until she could straighten things up at the half-acre property. He agreed to come the end of the month.
“That’s how they were,” Gary Bowman said. “I’m just proud of them. They were good parents.”
In addition to Gary, the Bowmans are survived by their other son, Mark Bowman of Waco, Texas, and five grandchildren.