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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2003

Park naturalist, mother fought disease daily

NAPOLEON - Joann Carol Bowman, a naturalist at Mary Jane Thurston and Van Buren state parks, died Monday in St. Charles Mercy Hospital of complications from multiple sclerosis. She was 50.

Family members described Mrs. Bowman as a determined and strong woman who enjoyed and cared for her family and the people around her. She grew up suffering with multiple sclerosis, but the disease did not squelch her love of life or will to achieve, they said.

“She was the one I was always jealous of,” her sister, Eileen Bisbee, said. “She was the cheerleader and I wasn t. She was a homecoming attendant and I wasn t. She was in the band and played a musical instrument. She was amazing and outstanding in so many ways.”

Daughter Jennifer Allen said her mother always loved nature from her earliest memories. Mrs. Allen said her mother did many things, but her last job as a naturalist was her dream job.

“My dad was a park ranger, and she did so much volunteering there,” Mrs. Allen said. “When that job opened up, it was a natural for her. She loved working and organizing things for people to do at the park because she was just an excellent organizer.”

In 2001, she won the Bill Price Award and the Chief s Award from the Ohio State Parks, family members said.

During the funeral today, the park service will release a red-tailed hawk in her honor, family members said.

“She loved the park and doing things there,” Mrs. Allen said. “She would write grants to get shelter houses built and other things the parks needed.”

Family members said she bravely took on her battle with multiple sclerosis by battling the pain and its limitations time and again to accomplish other things she loved doing.

She did all the bookkeeping and co-owned Bowman Body Shop with her husband.

She worked at the Oak Grove Nursing Home in Deshler, Ohio, and was a tutor for migrant children in the Patrick Henry School District. She was an activities instructor at Intergenerational Services in Findlay.

“I think she overcame [multi- ple sclerosis] by just staying busy,” Mrs. Bisbee said. “I ve had some health problems. She would get so worried about me, but that was the kind of person she was. She would be so concerned about you, and she never thought about herself.

“I used to tell her I could have never done it and dealt with the pain day after day the way she has. She was really strong and had a really strong faith.”

She was a former member of Deshler First United Methodist Church, serving as its children s choir director and heading the vacation Bible school program. At McClure United Methodist Church, she was on its staff-parish relations committee and the administrative board.

Mrs. Allen said Mrs. Bowman was equally giving as a mother, making outfits for her musicals or becoming a den mother when her son, Eric, became a Cub Scout. “The one thing we learned from her is that if we re going to do something, we should do it the right way,” Mrs. Allen said. “We should have a good work ethic. She was always organized and neat.”

Surviving are her husband, Robert; son, Eric; daughters, Holly Evinger and Jennifer Allen; brother, Larry Pickering, and sisters, Eileen Bisbee and Kathryn Lute.

Services will be at 10 a.m. today in McClure United Methodist Church. The Synder-Wesche Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, McClure United Methodist Church, or Damascus Township Fire and Rescue unit.



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