Life Story / Obituary
Fun-loving, genuine, and kind, Leslie “Les” Dale Bowser, Sr. lived a life rich in family and friends. A man who embraced each day as a gift and every person as a friend, Les inspired smiles and laughter wherever he went. A hard worker, Les also knew well the value of play and was a bit of a jokester; he loved to tease. He always found a way to see the best in everyone and every moment. Even in the face of life’s hardships, Les found a way to see the blessings and be a source of comfort. As a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Les proved a powerful role model for all who were blessed to know him.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression,1934 gave birth to many celebrated firsts. Flash Gordon made his debut while Fuji Photo Film was established. The Three Stooges took center stage in their first short while the nation first met Donald Duck. The year marked the turning point in the Great Depression as the rays of Hope peeked through the clouds of despair in America when unemployment decreased to 22%. Nowhere was there a greater sense of hope than in the home of Levi Bowser and Mary (Slager) as they welcomed their son, Les, into their hearts and home on December 17.
The youngest of the 13 Bowser children, Les grew up on the family farm in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. His father worked as a bricklayer, while his mother farmed and tended to the house and children. Affectionately called “Sonny” by his siblings, as several of his oldest sibs were already married and had children of their own by the time Les was born, he became quite close with his nieces and nephews who were closer to his age.
Growing up on the farm, Les learned to drive tractors and heavy equipment from an early age. He even owned his own dump truck before he had his official driver’s license and used it to haul coal to make money. He learned to work on cars and was able to help maintain his family’s vehicles for many, many years. Like his mother, Les loved to fish, a passion he shared for the rest of his life. When Les was 11-years-old, his parents sold the farm and took Les on an epic trip out west.
One of the greatest gifts Les ever received was falling in love with Betty Mae Black. He and Betty first met while attending elementary school and spent their first date taking in the excitement at the Policeman’s Rodeo in Pittsburgh. Six months later, on May 2, 1953, they exchanged their marriage vows in a small family wedding in Winchester, Virginia.
The newlyweds began their 66-year adventure by welcoming their first child to their family. Over the next twelve years, they were blessed by the births of five more children. Pamela, Susan, Cindy, Leslie Jr., Shawn, and Darla, were the centers of Les and Betty’s worlds, and they worked hard to provide them a loving and supportive home. In 1964, their bustling family moved to Grand Rapids to find work. The first settled into a rental house on Benson St NE, before buying their forever home on Maynard Avenue in Walker in 1972. While Betty focused on running the household, Les worked for a time at a local steel company. He later found work at Corduroy Rubber before settling into a long career at Velting Construction, where he worked until retiring at 73.
As a father, Les was both fun-loving and strict. He held his children to high expectations, especially his son, Les, and he beamed with pride in their accomplishments. He made his daughters learn to drive a motorcycle, participate in baseball games, and learn to fish. Betty successfully lobbied for the girls so that they didn’t have to bait their own hooks. Like many in his generation, Les was extremely resourceful. He enjoyed tinkering on various projects, including refurbishing an old travel trailer that became the family’s camper. Over the years, the family made many trips back to Pennsylvania to celebrate Christmas with their extended family. They also enjoyed trips throughout their home state, taking in the fun in White Hall, Grand Haven, and Silver Lake, where they enjoyed riding the dune buggies. Les enthusiastically sang Happy Birthday, elevating the joy of every person’s special day.
While Les eagerly shared his love of fishing, hunting, playing cards, and country-western music with his family, what he enjoyed sharing most was their good company. As their children grew into adulthood and had families of their own, Les and Betty welcomed their new roles as grandparents with love and affection. He never hesitated to lend his time and talents to any of their projects, painting, remodeling and using his bulldozer to get things done. He tended to his garden with great care and relished in sharing its bounty with his family. He also enjoyed venturing out for a meal at Wendy’s with his closest pal, his canine companion, Reggie.
One of the greatest gifts Les gave his children and grandchildren was the example of his care for Betty. He and Betty built their marriage on mutual love and respect, and their relationship proved a powerful inspiration. Their mutuality was evident in every moment they shared. Whether square dancing, traveling, rebuilding their home in Sebastian, Florida, after two hurricanes, or hosting a pig roast, they modeled healthy partnership at every turn. Family always came first for Les, and he impressed upon his children and grandchildren how to always look out for each other. This value was most evident in his tender care for Betty, especially as her health declined in her later years.
Clearly, it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Les’ steadfast presence. May we find comfort in knowing that he has joyfully reunited with his beloved wife and daughter Cindy. May we also find comfort in the honor of carrying his beautiful legacy forward. With each moment we cast our lines, tend to the garden, sing with abandon, take the dance floor with a loved one, inspire laughter, or confidently tackle a project, we celebrate the many ways Les gifted our lives. In this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired each of us.
Leslie D Bowser, age 86 of Walker, peacefully passed away, surrounded by loved ones, on February 24, 2021, in Sebastian, Florida. He was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, Betty; their daughter Cindy Lou Silva; siblings, Loran Bowser, Richard Bowser, Earl Bowser, Floyd Bowser, Jack Bowser, Andrew Bowser, Sylvia Bowser Wolfe, Parmelda “Jean” Bowser, Violet Bowser Ruffner, and Phyllis Bowser Dias. Leslie is survived by his sister, Florence Goodgasel; children, Pamela (Robert) Weaver, Susan (Donald) Pease, Leslie (Sandy) Bowser Jr, Shawn (Paul) Bigelow, Darla (Jeff) VerBeek; 14 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren; as well as many nieces, nephews, and friends. The service to remember and celebrate Leslie’s life will be held on Friday, March 19, 2021, at 1 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Burial in Rosedale cemetery. Relatives and friends may meet his family at the funeral home on Thursday from 6-8 PM and Friday beginning at Noon. For those who wish, memorial contributions to the Van Andel Institute of cancer research are appreciated. To read more about Leslie’s life, to share a memory, or to sign his guest book, visit www.heritagelifestory.com