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Local woman celebrates 97th birthday

February 9, 2011

The Morning News — Leslie Mielke Lois Bowyer celebrated her 97th birthday Tuesday. She lives at the Gables in Blackfoot and has struck up a friendship with the cockatiel named Leonard.

BLACKFOOT – Lois Bowyer celebrated her 97th birthday Tuesday. She lives at the Gables in Blackfoot along with 15 other residents.
“I’m the oldest one here,” she confided.
Bowyer’s secret for a long life is “always exercise and keep going.” She did add that salsa is good on everything.
“I developed my delight in (mild) salsa because there were four Spanish cafes where we lived in Southern California,” she said. “I eat salsa with every meal, and then walk three to seven times around the Gables after each meal.”
Bowyer sets a sprightly pace when walking.
Born in Deadwood, S. D., Bowyer was the second to the youngest of seven children. She had three brothers and three sisters. She and her family moved to Lewis, Colo., near Durango when she was two. The family had a ranch and raised wheat, alfalfa and hay.
“We rode a horse to school—three miles each way,” she said. “We’d return home from school and it was cold. Mother always had a pot of coffee on the old stove and would hand us a cup of coffee.
“It was black coffee,” Bowyer said. “We probably couldn’t afford anything to put in it.
“So many things have changed [since then],” Bowyer said. “A person could not have imagined all the changes that have happened.”
She credits her first grade teacher for helping her keep her mind sharp.
“We memorized all the presidents in order, all 208 bones in the body, the Preamble to the U. S. Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance,” Bowyer said. (She earned a silver dollar for memorizing the list of presidents.)
Tuesday, it took Bowyer about two minutes to recite the list of presidents from Washington to Obama.
Each night before going to bed, Bowyer recites these memorized texts.
Bowyer attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. It had an outhouse.
She was one of six students in her graduating eighth grade class.
About World War I, she said she remembers her neighbor returning home.
“He wore these high boots and the shoes,” she said.
In 1928, the family moved to California. After graduating from high school in California, she attended beauty college.
She married her husband, Darrell, in 1940. A baby daughter was born in 1942 but she lived only 10 days.
Their son, R. Terry Bowyer, was born in 1948. (He is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Idaho State University.)
Darrell served in the Pacific during World War II. He served in the U.S. Army for three years. He was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines.
“I wrote him a letter every night,” Bowyer said.
During WWII, Lois worked in the Douglas Aircraft Factory in Santa Monica, Calif., making small parts that were sent overseas.
After the war, Darrell returned to California to work as a barber.
“He cut men’s hair; I did women’s hair,” she said. “We worked in the same place.
“That’s hard work,” she said. Both retired in 1980.
They bought a home in Ojai where they lived for 50 years.
Lois said she, her husband and son did a lot of camping.
“We started in an old tent, and then graduated to a small trailer,” Bowyer said.
One year, Lois and her husband and another couple travelled around the country.
“We visited every state except those states in the deep south,” Bowyer said. “After 30 days of traveling, we were all anxious to get home.”
“My husband suffered from Alzheimer’s disease the last six years of his life,” she said. Darrell died in 2006.
“We moved to Blackfoot to be near our son,” she said. “I told Terry and his wife, Karolyn, I wanted to live near them but not with them; they need to be able to go out when they need to.”
She has two grandsons and four great-grandchildren—each grandson has a boy and girl.
Bowyer’s eyesight is not so good so she follows the adage of “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
“I have to put it back or I won’t know where it is,” she said. “Most of the time, I know where it is.
“It’s nice to be in a nice place,” Bowyer said.
“I asked my son, ‘Have I got enough money to live awhile?’
“He answered me, ‘I just figured it out; you can live to 102.’”

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