May 16, 2012 - Last Friday the business of running a car dealership continued. The sun shone brightly through the walls of plate glass windows; salesmen showed new cars to customers; service continued and transactions transpired, but something was different. It hung there quietly in the air.
John (left) and Sharon Bowman last October with Ed Adler at a political fundraiser at the Clarkston Mills Mall. Photo by Don Rush (click for larger version)
"Mr. B" wasn't there.
John Elden Bowan owner and president of John Bowman Chevrolet, Inc. died with his wife Sharon at his side on the morning of May 9, 2012. He was 73 years old.
Mr. Bowman died in Pontiac's St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, eight days after having a cardiac arrest at his Clarkston area home. According to family sources, the Bowmans were packing for a trip to Las Vegas that was to commence the next morning with two managers from the dealership.
According to Mr. Bowman's daughter Katie Coleman, her stepmother performed CPR and called 9-1-1.
"We are thankful she did. It was really heroic," Mrs. Coleman said, adding they family is also thankful for the care her father received while at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.
Funeral Services were at Lewis E. Wint & Sons Funeral Home in Clarkston, this past weekend (please see obituary information on page B8).
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Mr. Bowman has been a Clarkston resident for about 10 years, but has been a part of the community since 1984. A brief story in the Nov. 28, 1984 Clarkston News announced his arrival.
"After 18 years, the signs at Rademacher Chevy Inc are coming down to be replaced by John Bowman Chevrolet.
"Bowman, a former Chevrolet dealer in the downriver city of Belleville, bought the dealership at the corner of M-15 and Dixie Highway, Nov. 1.
"'New signs are a first priority,' he said. 'I heard (the dealership) was for sale and I thought Clarkston would be an excellent market. We don't anticipate any major changes, although we've hired five new people.
"'We're also going to expand our used car business across the street, put up a new building and add more lights. We want to make it a more visible and viable used car operation.'
Bowman is a Birmingham resident."
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Friends, family and employees all remembered Mr. Bowman as a very giving, fun and smart man who enjoyed reading, history and learning.
"He loved to keep up on current events. Every day he read his newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, Oakland Press, Clarkston News, Detroit Free Press and USA Today," his wife, Sharon, said. "He loved his family and he loved Clarkston -- the people, and the community -- he truly did. He would do whatever he could for the community as long as he didn't get recognition."
He supported Easter Seals, the American Red Cross and locally was a strong backer of SCAMP, Clarkston Area Youth Assistance, Angles' Place and Clarkston Community Schools.
"He always said, 'Clarkston gives to me, I wanna give back to Clarkston,'" she added.
Mrs. Bowman said her husband loved to golf and was a member at Oakhurst and Orchard Lake country clubs. "He got his first hole-in-one when he was 72," she said.
She also said, he loved his employees, and a number of them agreed.
"He was very well respected by his employees," said Julie Bradley, the dealership's secretary treasurer and 27-year employee. "We loved him dearly. He was the best employer. He was a great man. When I first met him, what impressed me most was how quickly he earned my respect. He received so much respect from us, because he gave it."
According to Rhonda Jensen, vice president of service, and 24-year employee, Mr. Bowman "wanted to be the best hometown dealer, period. That man had a vision. We all have learned so much from him. He took us under his wings and trained us to be managers and that meant treating people they way you want to be treated. If you lead by good example, others will follow."
Twenty year employee and vice president of sales, Al Hall agreed.
"Mr. B was a fantastic man. You never wanted to let him down. He wanted you to know more than just your job, he wanted you to know everything he knew. He never talked down to someone. He would let you know what he expected. If there was ever a person who didn't like Mr. B, they didn't know Mr. B," Hall said.
Hall said that Mr. Bowman thought it was important to be seen at the dealership, he loved to be at work, and was there the day of his cardiac arrest, even though earlier in the month it was announced the dealership was turned over to his daughter, Katie.
"He would beat most of the salespeople in," Hall said.
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His daughter Katie said her father will be remembered as the "consummate small business owner. He loved the car business and he loved his employees. He was a very caring man, a wonderful father, grandfather, husband and friend."
Mr. Bowman, she said, started his entrepreneurial ways by first owning a "couple of gas stations."
"He liked the idea of being a dealer and one of his friends, Joe Lunghammer, sponsored him at Mathew Hargraves Chevrolet," she said. "He worked without pay for a short period to learn the business."
His first dealership, the one downriver, was called John Elden Chevrolet. "Dad's middle name is Elden," Mrs. Coleman explained."
After he sold that dealership, he worked as a stock broker in Bloomfield Hills, she said.
Since this past January, Mrs. Coleman has been in charge of the dealership's operations. "Bowman Chevrolet will continue to support this community and I will honor and follow in my father's footsteps in running this business."
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org