Mark’s Mom



My aunt Barbara with baby Mark and his big sister, Carrie.

Funeral Program: Barbara Bowles Stratton (outside)

Funeral Program: Barbara Bowles Stratton (inside)

My mother’s older sister, Barbara, passed away a few months ago in September.  I was privileged to speak at her funeral!  Just as the meeting was closing with prayer my cousin, her son Mark, ran up to the stand and wanted to say a few words about his mother… but there was no time because everyone was standing as the casket was wheeled out the door.  Although we spoke about how sweet and kind Barbara was to all of us, Mark wanted to make sure the “tough as nails” part of his mother’s personality was told.  So, he has been regularly texting his memories to me since that day!  Here are the stories Mark wanted to share about his mother:

Story #1 – Mom was Tough as Nails:  My mother is remembered as a caring sweet, sweet lady that was always sweet.  Never nothing but sweet.  There was another side to my mother that was tough as nails.  She was a firecracker!  I remember my mom jumping the fence to save our chihuahua that was getting eaten alive by a big mean-ass dog.  She went after that dog like a wild cat; that dog had his tail tucked and was fleeing for his life!  So, she grabbed our little dog and loaded us up to go to the dog doctor.  As we backed out of the driveway, she noticed the screen door was open.  She ordered me to run and shut it.  And that’s exactly what I did was run and shoved my hand right thru the glass.  So, now she has to decide who goes to the doctor first… the dog or me?  Mom decisively made the call, the dog is first; then if I am still alive, I go next.  The dog died.  Me however, did not.  She was in command of the situation from the first second.


My mother said she always looked up to her big sister, Barbara, and admired her beauty.

Story #2 – Mom had Skills:  My sweet caring mother wasn’t just tough as nails, she had many skills.  Some fine tuned skills and some that just came natural when she was in a jam and needed to come up with something fast to get by.  I was probably four when the dog ate our little dog, so I would say I was five when my mom was backing our new car out of the driveway and tore the door off the car.  I’m not sure of the particulars of how this happened (I was 5); however, I am sure the door was ripped off the car.  So mom, being her father’s daughter, got some rope and put the door back where it belonged and she wrapped the rope around the car door, then over the roof and back under the car, and over the opposite door and back over the roof and after about ten times around the car, she put some kind of crafty cinch loop and a few half-hitches and there it was; fixed almost good as new.  Of course, we had to get in and out of the car thru the back doors until dad got home from working out of town all week, then the door issue naturally fell to him.

Story #3 – I’m in the Dog House Now:  I could always tell when mom was getting fed up with my dad working too much, because she would take it out on me and dad’s hunting dog.  This dog was my pal!  So, I would stand toe-to-toe with my mom and defend my dog from her and her broom; me and this dog was tight.  Hell, we used to go in the garage and eat dog food together!  Now, if that ain’t a tight friendship I don’t know what is?  Anyhow, my dad had been gone bow hunting and didn’t take us with him, so mom was less than sweet to my dog because of it.  And, since I was stupid enough to sass my mom over her brooming my dog, I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t exactly safe from getting broomed my own self; but unlike my dog, I was stuck in the middle.  My mom went after my dog with the broom until he finally had to flee for his life.  He tried to come back but she would go after him with the broom again until he just stopped coming back.  Dad comes home and wants to know where is his dog?  Mom tells him, “I don’t know, the dog just run off.”  I jump up and say, “No sir, he tried to come home but mom kept chasing him away!”


Barbara was born on July 9, 1938

Story #4 – Mom had Nerves of Steel:  I would hit the doors with both hands to stop me, and then do it again and again.  Mom had told me 3 or 4 times to knock it off, or else!  So, knowing this was the last run at it before “or else” was going to hit, I got a good running start and slid into the glass door and went right thru the glass.  So, there I was bleeding out.  Mom used my little brother’s diapers to try to slow the bleeding while she drove like a crazy lady to the hospital.  One time when mom, Brad and I were at the laundry mat, I ws acting my same old out-of-control part… running and sliding on the wet floor.  It was winter and the floor by the glass door at the laundry mat was wet from snow-covered shoes going in and out all day.  I saw the opportunity to do a little floor surfing!  I would get back and get a run at it and hit that wet floor and surf to the glass doors.  I was cut up; it was not a pretty sight.  It took 140 stitches to patch me up that time.  Brad was less than a year old, so I wasn’t quite four yet.  My mom had nerves of steel, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to give me the “or else” she had threatened me with.  I guess that glass door was the or else!

Story #5 – Mom knew No Fear:  My mother was absolutely the most fearless person I have ever met in my life.  She had more backbone in her little finger than most men ever have in their finest hour.  My mother would tackle jobs that would make a big bad-ass strong man die from fright.  Mom heard about a trailer in Veyo that was free.  All you had to do was come get it and it was yours.  So my mom, knowing that my sister was thinking about moving back to the area, she hires a trailer mover to go move the trailer to a park near her home.  Now this trailer was a scary sight.  By the time I found out about what she was doing, it was too late to tackle her down and tie and gag her while I try to talk some sense to her.  Nope, that conversation was a luxury I did not have; so no sooner than the trailer was parked, the tear down began.  There was not one inch of this trailer that was livable; everything had to come out and go into the dumpster.  I wasn’t around to help as much as I should have been.  My brother, Brad, was the muscles and mom was the brains, and she executed her daily list day in and day out until she had the trailer looking like new.  She called me up and told me she needed this done before my sister got here.  So me being me, I followed her order pretty damned good, because I knew the difference between her asking me and her telling me.  And, make no mistake about it, she wasn’t asking me to paint the trailer, she was telling me to paint the trailer.  And, she told me to bring a couple cords of fire wood with me when I come.  The only thing I could think to say to that was, “Yes ma’am, I will cut the wood in the morning and get to painting when I get there; is there anything else ma’am?”  She said no sir, just that it had to be done in less than 48 hours because that’s when your sister will be here.  So I cut wood all day and painted most of the night to beat the clock.  I knew better than to ask the boss any stupid questions, like maybe if I’m not done in time coud I get another day?  No sir, not after I seen the work she had done herself inside the trailer.  She learned how to set tile by the instructions on the tile box… and the list goes on and on.  She was a tough act to follow but I will do my best to do so.  What she done to that trailer in about a month’s time was nothing short of a miracle.  She worked in that trailer herself day and night to make it happen on time.  She was well over fifty when this event took place and take it from me, someone that out works 20-year old men every day at the age of 55, it don’t come easy like it used to when I was 45.  She was the only one I have looked up to since my Dad and my Grandpa Bowles passed away.  She was my rock.


Spencer Bowles with his first child… a daughter named Barbara!

Summer of Bereavement

My summer diversions came crashing to a halt last week with the start of school, which means that I am back to work now.  Throughout this past summer I have spent one day a week at the BYU Family History center.  Downstairs in the Harold B. Lee Library is a cozy little genealogy center full of rows and rows of microfilms.  Several hundred of these microfilms contain the old newspapers from small towns in Utah.  Since my ancestors are all Utah Pioneers (literally), and since many of them settled these small towns, I have been able to find mention of them in their hometown newspapers!

In particular, I have been searching for obituaries.  Yes, I know that I could go to Utah Digital Newspapers and let them help me find obituaries.  That is a great website; however, there is something very satisfying about the hunt through the pages of a little newspaper to find your ancestor’s name.  And there is so much more to see!  In that day, the deaths in town were front page news and that is where I have found all my obituaries… alongside whatever other meaningful activities were taking place in that town.  This is how I came across the tragedy that befell the Gowers family of Nephi, Utah during the summer of 1921.

Gowers, Clyde Earl

Gowers, Deltha Bowles

I am not related directly to the Gowers family, but have an indirect connection through my great-great auntie Deltha.  Those that have followed my blog may remember my three-part series on the life of Deltha and her tragic end.  (Here is part one, part two and part three.)  For a quick refresher, Deltha Bowles (at right) married Clyde Gowers (at left) and then both were killed three years later in an automobile crash during June 1921.  I found Clyde’s & Deltha’s double obituary on the front page of the town newspaper in Nephi.  “All Nephi mourned” for them and their parents were left to raise their two sons.

Gowers, AJ and Family

*Photo above says it was taken in 1921.  Must have been taken just after the death of Clyde & Deltha since Clyde is not included in this picture with his siblings and father.  However, Clyde’s & Deltha’s two sons (Don & Jay) are included in this picture.  Left to Right Seated: Elmer, AlfredJr, Don (lap), Ronald, AlfredSr and Mont.  Left to Right Back: Jay (baby), Eva, Clarence, Bernell, Eugene and Laura.

Gowers, Nello Ray

Then, as I continued to scroll through the weekly newspapers that followed, I was saddened to see that the Gowers lost another son, Ray, just two months later.  His body was shipped home from France where he had been killed in the world war.  The Gowers were forced to hold another funeral that summer in August 1921 and again the town rallied around them, this time with full military honors for their son Ray Gowers (at left).  Subsequently, imagine my shock to find that only one month later in September 1921, the Gowers’ 15-yr-old son Elmer died from complications due to an appendicitis attack.  The town newspaper announced the funeral for Elmer Gowers saying, “Mr. and Mrs. Gowers have the heartfelt sympathy of the people of this city in their latest bereavement, as it is felt that the present summer has been filled with sorrow and trouble for them.”

Gowers, Elmer Irving

Check out this news article describing the interesting ‘health crusade’ to honor Elmer Gowers (at right) and the manifestation of love from the entire town for the Gowers family in their multiple losses over the summer of 1921.  The town newspaper said, “Every available seat in the North ward meeting house was occupied Sunday afternoon at the funeral services of Elmer Gowers, while a large number were unable to get inside of the building, all of which bore silent testimony of the sympathy that was felt for the parents and family of the young man in their latest bereavement.”

The Original Chain Letter?

News- Scary PrayerI ran across this news article recently and had to share!  I was looking up obituaries in my hometown newspaper, The Times News of Nephi, Utah.  Actually, the paper was called the Juab County Times from 1909 – 1917.  This fun article was on the front page of that newspaper for February 10, 1911.  Who knew “chain letters” had been around that long?!

I had just found the marriage announcement for my great-grandparents, Leo & Bertha Bowles, in the November 18, 1910 issue.  I then continued to scroll through the microfilm just to see what was “front page” news in Nephi after their marriage.  I don’t know if Bertha was one of those “frightened” women, but she almost certainly saw this article in the newspaper 😉

I love how the editor shares the exact wording, grammar and spelling of this letter that “originated from some ignoramus crank!”  Can these letters ever really be traced to their original source?!  I did a little bit of googling and found one article, The Curious History of Chain Letters, that suggests these types of letters have been around since as early as 1888.

The Bowles Family of Nephi

Bowles Family1a*Abt. 1907, taken on farm located 5½ miles northwest of Nephi, Utah

From L to R: 1. Child #8 – Lilly Fern… she married Elgin Garrett, 2. Mother – Mary Ann Viola Johnson Bowles, 3. Grandmother – Emma James Johnson… Viola’s mother, 4. Child #6 – Delpha… she married Clyde Gowers, 5. Child #1 – Emma “Sussie” Susannah… she married Elias Worwood, 6. Child #4 – Leo… he married Bertha Leah Bowers, 7. Grandmother – Susannah Washburn Bowles… William’s mother, 8. Unknown adopted daughter of Susannah & Thomas… too young to be Mary Jane Johnson, 9. Child #5 – LaVern… he married Lettie Garrett, 10. Father – William Abraham Bowles (on machine), 11. Child #3 – Flossie… she married Richard Sudweeks, 12. Grandfather – Thomas Bowles… William’s father, and 13. Child #7 – Carl James (on horse)… he married Edna Boswell

Absent: Child #2 – William Alvin… probably on his mission to New Zealand

Bowles Family2b*Same day, same family members, some have changed clothes

From L to R: 1. Child #4 – Leo… my great-grandfather, 2. Mother – Mary Ann Viola Johnson Bowles, 3. Father – William Abraham Bowles, 4. Child #8 – Lilly Fern… standing in front at left, 5. Child #3 – Flossie… seated on ground at left, 6. Child #5 – LaVern… standing in back in middle, 7. Unknown adopted daughter… standing in front at right, 8. Grandmother – Emma James Johnson… chair on left, 9. Child #6 – Delpha… seated on ground at right, 10. Child #1 – Sussie… laying in front at right, 11. Grandmother – Susanna Washburn Bowles… chair in middle, 12. Child #7 – Carl James… standing in back at right, 13. Grandfather – Thomas Bowles… chair at right

Bowles, Leo-WilliamAbe-Alvin2*This picture appears to be taken a few years later, working on the farm

Leo Bowles – William Abraham Bowles – William Alvin Bowles

Who is Deltha Bowles? (part 3)

For those of you following my recent posts about Clyde & Deltha Bowles… thanks!  You may be curious about their second son, Jay Earl, who survived their car crash when he was 5-months old, and then died tragically in an airplane crash at the age of 22-years old.

Army JayJay Earl Gowers was born 22 Jan 1921 in Nephi, Utah.  Five months later, on 22 Jun 1921, Jay was riding in the car that overturned and killed his parents.  After the parents’ deaths, Jay was raised by his paternal grandparents, Alfred & Matilda Gowers, in Nephi.  I found him listed with them in the 1930 and 1940 US Federal Censuses.  He went to Juab High School with his brother, Don, who was raised by the maternal grandparents.  He graduated a year after Don and, like his brother, Jay also went to BYU in 1940 & 1941… then enlisted in the ARMY on 14 Nov 1941.

Jay must have been stationed for a while in Tennessee because he shows up living there with a wife in 1943.  LDS church records indicate that Jay married Loi Beth Kerr on 17 Oct 1942 in Nashville, Tennessee… and they returned to Utah to be sealed in the Manti Temple on 20 May 1943.  They never had any children.  Jay was killed in a plane crash while training with the ARMY on 22 Sep 1943.  He is buried in Nephi next to his parents in the Vine Bluff Cemetery.  Gone but not forgotten.

As I researched Jay’s death, I found a website that could give me information about airplane crashes.  When I requested the information, they informed me that Jay had three previous crashes before the one that took his life.  By this time in my detective work, I was curious about everything and so I requested information about all of Jay’s crashes.  I provide it here for those who are curious like me!

1st Accident… This first crash occurred at Waycross Army Air Field, Georgia on 1 Sep 1942.  Jay had just landed the plane and was rolling to a stop when the left wheel collapsed.  It was ruled a mechanical error.

2nd Accident… While taxiing his plane to the runway to take off, Jay intended to test the wing flaps, but pulled the “wheel up” lever instead which immediately dropped the plane to the ground.  This occurred at DeRidder Army Air Base, Louisiana on 9 Mar 1943.  It was ruled pilot error.

3rd Accident… Jay had taken off from Salinas Army Air Base, California on 7 Sep 1943 when his engine caught fire.  He steered back towards the base, but his engine quit suddenly and he bailed out.  The plane crashed in a field; it was ruled mechanical error.  This incident was noted in his hometown newspaper.

4th Accident… Just two weeks later, Jay was taking off from Salinas when his plane veered to the right suddenly and dived into the ground.  He was thrown from the plane and killed on 22 Sep 1943.  It was ruled pilot error.  The hometown newspaper noted Jay’s death and funeral in subsequent weeks.

*Whatever happened to Loi Beth?  She married Robert Shaw a few years after Jay’s death.  She and her husband both died in Downey, California.

Who is Deltha Bowles? (part 2)

Jay & Don 1921When I first found the old newspaper clipping telling about my great-auntie’s death, I was a little confused.  Why did the article say two children were orphaned when Clyde & Deltha only had one child with them in the car?  Everyone else survived including: Clyde’s mother and Deltha’s sister with her own children.  I thought about this for a few days before it occurred to me to check the census!  It was in the 1920 US Federal Census that I first learned about their oldest son, Donald.  So, what happened to the two boys after their parents’ deaths?  I found Don Gowers in the 1930 and 1940 US Federal Censuses living with his maternal grandparents, William & Viola Bowles, in Nephi.  I also found pictures of Don indicating that he had attended BYU in 1939 & 1940 and then had transferred to USU in 1941… after that, the paper trail ended.

Except… I couldn’t find any information about his death and kept running across an address in Nephi, Utah.  Could Donald Ray Gowers still be alive?!  It was time for a road trip.  In fact, Amelia and I went on a “treasure hunt” to  find my first cousin 2 times removed!  We first stopped at my parents’ home in Nephi to share the purpose of our visit.  They assured us that a Don Gowers lived only a few blocks away.  We found the home and knocked on the door to be greeted by Marian Gowers.  She said her father was around somewhere… just then he came zipping around the side of the home riding on one of those electric scooters.  He was sporting a BYU baseball cap and had a Louis L’Amour paperback tucked in the front of his pants… Amelia and I immediately fell in love!

This is a picture of my cousin, Don Gowers, in front of one of several quilts he has made completely by hand.  This one earned a purple ribbon at the recent county fair.  He started quilting only a couple of years ago, around the time he turned 90-years old.  We learned that Don had met Rula Yearsley at USU and they had married in the Logan Temple.  Also, he graduated from USU with a degree in Engineering, but held a variety of different jobs before becoming a Social Worker in Juab County for 17-years.  Rula, who is nervous around strangers, stayed in the back room but listened to our conversation.  She gave permission for us to walk upstairs and view old family pictures on the walls.  Marion, their daughter, lives a few houses away but was there that day and made a wonderful hostess.

I had a couple of burning questions for Don.  Why weren’t you in the car the day your parents died?  He said he was at his Grandpa/Grandma Bowles’ home at the time.  It was a newer car that Clyde & Deltha were showing off to family members and there just wasn’t room for him.  What was it like to grow up in a household separated from your brother?  Don said “it wasn’t right,” but they really had no say since they were so young when the accident happened.  They grew up in the same town about 6 blocks apart and attended the same high school.  How did you feel when your brother Jay died tragically in 1943?  Don said he was training with the NAVY in the middle of the ocean at the time and was unable to get leave to attend the funeral, but Rula went.

*I went back for a second visit with Don a few weeks later and he could barely remember me.  He had celebrated his 93rd birthday on September 18, 2012.  I gave him some old family pictures and rekindled his memory for our common ancestry.  We talked about BYU football and our hopes for our favorite team.  I left, promising to keep in touch.

UPDATE: Don Gowers passed away peacefully in Nephi, Utah on March 4, 2016.  Dean and I went to Don’s viewing and I was finally able to meet Rula!  And, it was good to see and chat with Marion again 🙂

Obit- Gowers, Donald Ray

Funeral Prog- Gowers, Donald Ray

Who is Deltha Bowles? (part 1)

Meet Deltha Bowles, my great-aunt!  She was born on 4 May 1895 in Nephi, Juab, Utah.  She was the sixth of  8 children born to William Abraham Bowles and Mary Ann Viola Johnson.  (My great-grandpa, Leo Bowles, was the fourth child… an older brother to Deltha.)

This picture of Deltha was found in a box of stuff my mom received after my grandparents’ deaths.  As I have been updating my genealogy, I found out some interesting information about Deltha that I had never known before, such as the following:

1) Deltha served a mission (for the LDS church) to the Eastern States Mission during 1915-17.  It appears she spent time in the states of Vermont, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  Here is a letter she wrote to her home town!  Another person from Nephi, a man named Clyde Gowers, also served a mission there around that same time.  Deltha and Clyde were high school sweethearts, both graduating from Juab High School in May 1915.

Deltha sch ldr

2) Deltha was endowed in the Salt Lake Temple on 4 Jun 1915, probably in preparation for her mission.  Clyde was endowed in the Salt Lake Temple on 5 Apr 1916.  His (World War I) Draft Registration card was completed on 19 Jun 1917 and stated that his occupation was a “minister” for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “employed” in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

3) After returning from their missions, Deltha married Clyde Earl Gowers on 26 June 1918 in the Manti Temple.  Their wedding was announced in the local newspaper.  Three days later, Clyde was called up to train or serve in the military on 29 Jun 1918; he was released on 11 Dec 1918 as a Private.  Deltha and Clyde appear, with their first son, on the 1920 US Fed Census living with Clyde’s brother in Salt Lake City.

4) Their first son, Donald Ray, was born on 17 Sep 1919 in Nephi, Juab, Utah.  Their second son, Jay Earl, was born on 22 Jan 1921, also in Nephi.  Just 5-months later, Deltha and Clyde were tragically killed in an automobile accident.  I noticed they had both died on 22 Jun 1921.  After a little detective work, I came across this news article about their crash in Salt Creek Canyon (now known as Nephi Canyon).  I counted 4 adults and 3 children in the car and I don’t know why Donald wasn’t there, but it appears 5-month-old Jay was passed to the backseat just before the crash and thus escaped without injury.  Deltha’s and Clyde’s double funeral was held on 26 Jun 1921, exactly 3-years after their marriage.

Clyde-Deltha Headstones

Deltha and Clyde are buried next to each other in the Vinebluff Cemetery.

Death Cert- Clyde

Death Cert- Deltha

DeVere, a classic “Utah” name



DeVere Kelsey


18 April 1940




Happy 72nd Birthday to my father… TODAY!!  He prefers to go by the name of De… but I revere DeVere, because of the choices he made in his life that had a huge impact on my life.  Dad was born in the middle of 9 children to a very poor family in Utah.  He and many of his siblings were able to break out of a legacy of alcohol that had kept their family in poverty.

The best choice my father made in his life was to marry my mother.  Despite opposition and/or lack of support from their own parents, my parents chose to marry for eternity.  Dad has told us that once he and mom were kissing a lot in his car.  They stopped suddenly and reminded each other that they wanted to marry in the temple.  So, they said a prayer together asking for help to remain worthy to marry in the temple.  Sounds like a small thing, but I believe this choice was a turning point in their future lives together.  My parents were married on 9 Dec 1960 in the Manti Temple.  I was born “in the covenant” the following November.

Dad told me once that he had wanted to get work with a railroad company.  His mother sent letters to family members asking for financial help to get him into this career, but no one responded.  Instead of giving up when this career didn’t work out, my father went on to join the national guard, work for the forest service, work as a police officer, own small businesses (i.e. upholstery, retail foods), and work as a truck driver.  Basically, my father worked hard in his life to provide for himself and his family.  Despite many setbacks in every career, he chose to keep trying and striving to succeed.  I have heard him say that “you have to do it yourself because no one is going to help you.”  That has been true for him in many ways… and yet, that hasn’t stopped him from helping others when they needed it.

For example, I remember one experience I had with my father as we sat peeling potatoes in the back room of the Fros-T-Freez.  My Uncle Ken, dad’s brother, arrived unexpectedly for a visit.  The purpose of his visit was to ask my dad to help pay for a mission.  My dad asked many questions about why Ken wanted to serve a mission, which Ken answered admirably although he was put on the spot.  I’ll never forget the Spirit I felt as I sat there peeling potatoes and listening to them talk.  I thought I would bust with pride when my dad said he would help Ken pay for a mission.  I believe this experience laid a foundation for my own choice to serve a mission several years later.

I love my dad and I love how enthused he gets about collecting things like coins/tokens as well as how creative he is with painting and wood-carving.

Happy Birthday Donna Jean



Donna Jean Bowles


25 March 1941



My mother celebrates her 71st birthday TODAY!  Happy birthday to one of the most compassionate women I know.  Not only has she accomplished the great feat of raising 7 children, she currently is a loving influence on 22 grandchildren as well as the first great-grandchild born in the last year.

Donna has worked side-by-side with my father for more than 50-years.  In their early years, when dad worked as a police officer, they enjoyed entering “shooting” competitions where she almost always came out the winner.  In their later years, they owned and operated the Fros-T-Freez drive-in and High Mountain campground in Nephi, Utah.  Both she and dad are retired now, but she keeps very busy with church service and with piecing beautiful quilt tops that become immediate heirlooms when she gifts them.

One of the greatest tributes that can be paid Donna is that she honored her own parents by caring for them in their last years.  They lived a few blocks away, so my mother was able to visit them almost daily to look after their needs in their own home until her father passed away.  Then she brought her mother home to care for and was privileged to be holding her mother’s hand as she passed away.

I will always love my mother because she first loved me and believes in me.  She has successfully fulfilled the most important roles in life… daughter, sister, wife and mother.

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