Steamboat Springs On May 16, while driving home from a visit to his doctor “to find out what’s going on,” Bill Bowes stopped by the grocery store to buy berries for his great-grandchildren and fresh bread for dinner.
That was a week ago Saturday. Bowes’ granddaughter-in-law, Chula Beauregard, related the story and said that simple trip to the store was emblematic of the generosity, civility and grace with which the man who became Grandpa Bowes lived his entire life.
“He was taking care of everyone right up until the last moment,” added Tammie Delaney, of Hayden, one of Bowes’ seven children. “He was very healthy until the end.”
Longtime Strawberry Park resident William A. “Bill” Bowes went to the hospital the next day, last Sunday. He died Monday, at age 88.
The legacy that Bill Bowes leaves behind includes a family that has spread roots across Routt County and beyond; more than six decades of marriage and loving companionship with his late wife, Marie Rose Bowes; a lifelong love of skiing capped with a stint as an alternate to the 1948 U.S. Ski Team; and much more.
“How cool is it to have a rock-climbing, hiking, ski-racing, Harley-riding, water-skiing, sailboat-building, photographer — with his own dark room — dad, who also happens to be a scientist and mining geologist with operations in three different states?” Bowes’ eldest daughter, Sue Rife, said last week. “Our dad encouraged all of his seven children to pursue their interests, whatever they may be.”
The Bowes family moved in 1962 to Steamboat Springs and the Strawberry Park area, where their home eventually featured — with a rope tow and work from friends including Dennis Lodwick, the father of local Olympic skier Todd Lodwick — a backyard ski hill legendary for its challenging slope, nighttime lights and timed runs for generations of local children.
“Dad just had an amazing love for the outdoors and for skiing and ski racing,” Delaney said, adding that Bowes stayed on the slopes until age 80. “Skiing and the mountains, to me and to all of us, is really what defined my dad.”
She laughed while recalling her father’s affinity for the stopwatch and precision starts for children’s ski runs.
“The family joke is that I went to school and I didn’t know how to count from one to 10 — I only knew how to count down from 10,” Delaney said.
“His back hill was everything to him.”
Bowes’ wide-ranging life also included military service with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in World War II, exploration and development of mining claims from Chile to Wyoming and North Routt County, and influential work in the local community.
He and Marie were grand marshals of Winter Carnival in 1985. Bowes served on boards of directors for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club — of which he was president in 1972 — and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. He also was a member of the first Routt County Planning Commission.
In 2002, Bowes received the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s Leckenby Pioneer Award, given annually since 1980 to a county resident of 30 years or more who has shown community involvement, personal integrity and inspiration to youths.
“Being a member of the 10th Mountain Division, he really bridged the gap from WWII right up to the present day,” said Steamboat resident George Tolles, a longtime friend of Bowes’ and co-worker on mining claims. “He was a marvelous man. … He loved working out of doors and had a real feel for his profession.”
Tolles fondly remembered the pancake dinners the Bowes family would host as summer traditions. Bill always made the pancakes, Tolles said.
“He had a very long and eventful life. He lived through many, many changes in the world,” Tolles said. “We certainly will miss him.”
Three years ago, Delaney said, Bowes had heart surgery and a colonoscopy. He was flown to a Denver hospital for internal bleeding but came out of it OK and regained his health.
“We always said he pulled through because he wanted to get back to take care of Marie,” Delaney said.
Marie suffered from Alzheimer’s late in her life. Bill took care of her at their Strawberry Park home for several years, with help from family members including daughter Heidi Nunnikhoven.
Marie died Sept. 13, 2010.
“He wanted to get back and take care of Marie up in heaven,” Delaney said about her father.
“The two of them were quite a pair.”
A memorial service for Bill Bowes is July 2 in Steamboat Springs. Details are pending. Memorial contributions may be directed to the W. A. Bowes Donor Advised Fund, through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation. Call the family at 970-879-0809.
To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com