Barbara Bowie, a pastor whose most visible public ministry was to feed, clothe, and care for the poor, died Wednesday in Fairview Skilled Nursing Center. She was 77.
She had Alzheimer’s disease, her family said.
Pastor Bowie was the force behind Good Samaritan Outreach Center on Broadway in South Tole-do, which she founded in 1987 from a church kitchen. She recruited a corps of volunteers, and the center was open daily.
“It wasn’t a ‘We’ll feed you on Wednesday’ kind of deal. People have to eat every day,” her daughter Mary Helen Davis said.
The center depended largely on donations.
Early on, Pastor Bowie used tax refunds and a settlement from an auto accident to build the kitchen, she told The Blade in 2007. In the late 1990s, the city’s department of neighborhoods gave $10,000 for a laundry and showers.
“She was driven to help the downtrodden and poor,” her daughter said. “Her whole life, she was like that.”
Dan Rogers, president and chief executive of Cherry Street Mission Ministries, said he knew after meeting Pastor Bowie why the center was named after the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, who took a risk to offer aid.
“What she did, how she did it, the corner she chose, it was the classic, ‘I’m going to leave my safety, and I’m going to put myself at risk on behalf of others,’” Mr. Rogers said. “She was a saint. She was a saint for the people around her and her community. She was mom to a lot of people.”
Good Samaritan in 2007 became part of the ministries of Cherry Street Mission, which closed the center in 2010 because its 19th-century building was deemed unsafe.
During much of her tenure with Good Samaritan, she worked full time at a group home for people with developmental disabilities.
Pastor Bowie lived in southeast Michigan and attended a Monroe church when in 1971 “she accepted the Lord into her heart,” her daughter said. Her church offered refuge from the reactions she and her then-husband got. She was white; he was black.
“I think because of her experience with racism, she became the spokesperson and advocate for people who were not treated fairly” her daughter said.
In 1986, she became founder and overseer of a fellowship of churches. She took part in a prison ministry and a prison reform group as well.
Born March 2, 1937, in Morgantown, W.Va., to Mary and Albert Gwynne, she received a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, where she studied counseling and social work.
She was formerly married to the late Ralph Davis, the late Robert Willis, and the late William Bowie.
Surviving are her son, Harry Davis; daughters, Mary Helen Davis, Fran Scott, and Kenyatta Baker; seven grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.
Services are at 1 p.m. today in Bibleway Temple Worldwide Outreach on Collingwood Boulevard, where visitation begins at noon. Arrangements are by the House of Day Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to Seagate Food Bank.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.
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