We are here today to Celebrate the Life of Paul Denton Bowman, Jr. Poet Thomas Campbell wrote: To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die. Paul Denton Bowman, Jr lives on in our hearts. And Paul lived a remarkable life, and he will forever be part of our lives. Here in this room, we all have our own stories about Paul that we remember.
- Paul Denton Bowman, Jr. was born the first of three children to Paul and Olga Bowman in Baltimore, Maryland. Paul’s daddy, who we always called Uncle Dink, was one of 12 Bowman children. He had a young brother John Bertram, and a beloved sister, Linda Darlene. So, Paul grew up surrounded by many Uncles and Aunts, siblings and cousins, who had moved up to Baltimore from Cleveland, Tennessee because of all the work available in the Shipyards there. They moved back and forth, between Cleveland and Baltimore and eventually some of our family ended up in Orlando, Florida as well —which is where Paul grew up. Paul knew where he was from, and Paul knew where he wanted to spend his eternity.
- The name Paul means strong yet humble, a seeker of all things true and beautiful. He loved to laugh and be with the people he loved. That was our Paul. He was also known affectionally as Butch or Butchie by some in our family, a name he really didn’t like as he got older. All of our Uncles had nicknames, such as Bud, Greasy, Dink, and Pee Wee. Our cousins also had nicknames. There was Buddy, Porkie, Rootie Toot, Johnny Mop, and yes: Butch. I didn’t even know most of them had real names until I was in my 20’s. Butch didn’t mind using the name when it was to his advantage. There was a certain BBQ Food Truck run by David Darr in Orlando, in which BUTCH could get a discount. It was called the “Butchie Discount”. He shared the good news with so many people, that folks all over Orlando started asking for the “Butchie Discount.” Names are important. It is by our name that other people identify us, and that we identify ourselves. God Knows Our Name. And on Thursday, August 8, 2019 God called Paul Denton Bowman, Jr. home.
- I never knew our Grandfather Bowman, as he died before I was born. So, I asked Paul what he was like. He said, “he was so kind and soft spoken. I remember he used to walk me and our older cousin Johnny Eldredge to, and from, Bible School. And Granddaddy asked me, well what did you boys learn in Bible School today. Paul said, well Granddaddy, I learned that if you didn’t talk and behaved while the teacher is talking you get some cookies. Our Grandfather asked, well what else did you learn? Paul replied, Well Johnny never gets any cookies.” Paul was honest with himself, and understood the value of honesty.
- Paul was a tremendous athlete. Many people never knew that fact, but Paul finished 3rd in the state of Florida in the 100-Yard Sprints behind two African-Americans. That did not detour Paul. He was just pointed out he was the fastest white kid in the state that year. He also played Football. In fact, he played it so well he was recruited to play in the World Football League by the Florida Blazers. Paul loved sports and his Florida Gators. That did not always endear him to the good folks here on Ol’ Rocky Top—or to his Tennessee cousins. Paul was loyal to his friends, and looked to find the good in others—even if that did not always make him popular.
- Paul and my brother Ernie decided to get in shape. So, they both started biking. Now the image of those two in biker shorts is NOT a memory most of us want to keep in our minds. However, many people will tell us they started riding bikes in Cleveland, Tennessee, on our Greenway, because of those two. Unfortunately, Paul’s health didn’t allow him to keep riding. Today, Paul is completely healed and pain free. I imagine he is riding on the streets of gold in heaven, and he isn’t riding alone—he is riding with Jesus Christ. Paul trusted God in his Journey in life.
- When I was a Sophomore in High School, Paul had convinced my dad to let him take me on a school night to Opening Day for the Atlanta Braves. The Braves were a horrible team in 1979. Paul picked me up from Cleveland High School in his Baby Blue Metallic Corvette, and all my friends were jealous. I was really cool that day. We get to Atlanta and Paul has dugout level seats, it was raining, there were delays, and not much of a crowd. By the time the game ended at midnight, I bet there wasn’t 100 people in the entire stadium. Paul and I had collected so many foul balls, we almost needed a bag to carry them all out of the stadium. Paul liked his fast cars, but most importantly Paul was not identified by his worldly possessions.
- Paul once told me a story of our Great Grandfather William Mac “Pappy” Rollins, a cantankerous old Irish man who lived to be 100. He said one day, he was down visiting Pappy on a Saturday and it was getting late. Paul was feeling kind of sorry for the old man, who by that time was in his mid-nineties. “Hey Pappy” Paul said, “I can stick around and keep you company” Pappy said to him, “Listen here young man you have to leave, I have a neighbor lady coming over and I have to do some Sparking tonight.” Paul had never heard of that term, and I had never heard of it until Paul told me that story. By the way it means courting, or going on a date. Paul was a wealth of information. I am pretty certain that is why Paul named his dog and his favorite wingman “Sparkie”. Paul could tell a good story, and I hope you will share some of them with your friends and your family often. Jesus was a master storyteller. He taught in parables. We could all tell countless more stories about Paul, and I will be glad to share more later. We have to use stories to share our faith.
Paul trusted his future in God, through God’s son Jesus Christ. And he would want you to do the same. So, to recap:
- Paul knew where he wanted to spend his eternity.
- God knew Paul’s name, and Paul knew one day God would call him home.
- Paul was honest with himself.
- Paul was loyal to his friends, and looked to find the good in others—even if that did not always make him popular.
- Paul trusted God in his Journey in life.
- Paul was not identified by his worldly possessions.
- It is through our own stories to family and friends we can best share our faith. Tell those stories.
One day we will all be reunited. Our faith reminds us while we can’t be together here on earth, that one day we will together in heaven. Especially to my cousin Linda, Paul’s sister, as you are overwhelmed with emotions, hold on to these moments as they pass. I want to tell you:
- There is pain, it won’t subside soon. There is a numbness, an overwhelming sense of loss. We cannot make it go away, no matter how much we want. It is okay to cry.
- However, there is hope, through the darkest of your days, let your faith sustain you. In times of deep despair, let the Holy Spirit comfort you. Let your family and friends help you bear the grief; you are never alone.
- Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14), Paul is in a better place, and one day we all will join him—if we only believe, and I know you do. That is why this is a celebration.
Jesus Christ gives us a merry heart in life, and a contented heart in death. The believer’s death is but the moment we pass from the land of the dying to the land of the living. Our eternal home.
We know that death ends a life, not a relationship. The only way to take sorrow out of death; is if we were to take the love out of life.
Our love for Paul will continue. Don’t rush the grieving process, allow others to offer their support. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
This is not “Goodbye” to family and friends; Paul would tell us today. He would tell us that we must look forward. The years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and our days go by so fast. But we know moving forward, there is a promise of a home far beyond the skies: A place of joy and beauty, of peace and happiness that will never end.
Whenever, Paul and I parted he used to always say: Hey Jay, see you later. Be good. So, I think if he was here tonight, he would tell you: see you later and be good. We have to do the best we can for as long as we have on this earth.
So, either on this earth or in heaven, we will see you later. Be good. All of my love to you.
Eulogy by JC Bowman 8/11/2019 for Paul Bowman, Jr.