Dr. Thomas P. Bowlus; 1923-2014: Doctor helped start seniors’ community


PEMBERVILLE, Ohio — Dr. Thomas P. Bowlus, an East Toledo family physician for a half-century who was honored for his role in a local retirement community, died July 11 in Bay Park Community Hospital, Oregon, after a stroke. He was 91.

He and his wife, Marilyn, lived most recently along the Portage River in Pemberville. He played bridge, and the weekend before he died, “we had a family get-together, and he beat his sons at croquet,” his son Tom said.

Dr. Bowlus was about 80 years old when he retired from Family Medical Center on Starr Avenue in East Toledo, a group practice he joined after an internship at what became Riverside Hospital in North Toledo.

“It was a working-class clientele, and I think that’s what he loved,” said his son Dr. Jim Bowlus, a physician in Elida, Ohio. “They were hard workers, and his job was to keep them and their families healthy.

“Everybody said he was a humble person who would listen to them and give them time, and I think he also was a good diagnostician,” his son Jim said.

Dr. Bowlus’‍ medical license was not set to expire until July 1, 2015, according to State Medical Board of Ohio records online. He was active in a Toledo retired physicians group, and at the height of his profession was a leader in a range of groups. He was a former president of the American Cancer Society’‍s Lucas County unit and its Ohio division. He served for nearly 20 years on the Wood County Board of Health and was on the ethics committee at Mercy St. Charles Hospital in Oregon.

He was credited as a force behind the founding in the 1970s of what is now the Otterbein-Portage Valley retirement community near Pemberville. He was honored for his role in the 1980s by state and national associations.

“Dad keeps getting the credit, but he never would want it that way,” son Tom said. “Dad would say he was part of a group of concerned families in the Pemberville, Luckey, and Woodville area and churches that participated in making this a reality.”

Dr. Bowlus had a medical office at the retirement community for about 20 years.

He graduated from Pemberville High School. He enlisted in the Army after two years at Bowling Green State University and served as a medic in the South Pacific during World War II.

He finished his undergraduate studies at Eastern Michigan University and received a medical degree from the University of Michigan.

“He wasn’t an arrogant man, and he wanted us to not feel that we were better than other people,” his daughter Jeanne said. “Now they teach diversity. My dad somehow knew.”

He loved games and adventure — canoeing, scuba diving in the Caribbean and Great Lakes, and raising hydroponic produce on family land in Wood County’‍s Troy Township.

He and and his first wife, Madeline, married in 1946. She died in 1958.

Surviving are his wife, Marilyn, whom he married in October, 1969; sons, Dr. James, Thomas, Jonathan, Lt. Col. David, and Mark Bowlus; daughters, Jeanne Thomas and Susan Bowlus; 13 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Pemberville, where visitation will start at 11 a.m. Arrangements are by the Marsh Funeral Home, Pemberville.

The family suggests tributes to Otterbein-Portage Valley; First United Presbyterian Church, Pemberville, where he was an elder, or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.