MUSKOGEE — When Winnie Bowman makes a commitment, she’s there for the long haul.
She and her husband, Charles Bowman, recently celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. She worked with her husband at his insurance agency for 17 years.
She taught children’s Bible study at Muskogee and Tulsa churches for 50 years.
She has been active in Muskogee’s Civtan Club for 17 years.
Bowman grew up in Porum, where her father worked for Stark Brothers Nursery. She recalled seeing German prisoners of war work at the nursery during World War II. At the time, Camp Gruber was a Prisoner of War camp.
“I can remember seeing those German men with that blond, red hair,” she said. “As a kid, you’re very impressed.”
Bowman recalled her small town and school.
“The whole town was 800,” she said. “I graduated with a class of 25.”
She went to Connors State College. She said she was Connors’ first female student council president, but does not recall how she got that honor.
“We were very active with what was going on on campus,” she said. “There were only 400 students. It was like going to high school almost. You knew everybody.”
Bowman continued her community involvement while raising a family. She recalled leading Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.
She also was active in Parent Teacher Association at the state level, as well as locally. Her children attended Grant Foreman Elementary, Alice Robertson Junior High and Muskogee High. She was president of a local PTA Council.
“As council president, you are automatically a representative at the state level,” she said. “I learned a lot about what PTA is, what it does, how it represents our children. The council works together to help other PTAs. At the state level, they work together to think of the interest of the children.”
Bowman offers secret to successful marriage
Winnie Bowman gazes affectionately at her husband — after nearly 60 years of marriage.
Winnie Bowman’s decades-long romance with her husband began when she was a receptionist at Griffin Radio and Television.
“He had just got out of the service, out of the Air Force and came in looking for a job,” she said. “Charles was a very nice person. I think that’s what attracted me to him.”
Bowman and her husband laugh about the time he proposed.
“We were driving down Okmulgee, we were in the car. I don’t remember what we were talking about, and he said ‘do you want to get married,’” she said. “Not a real romantic proposal, but he did propose again when he got the ring.”
Bowman said respect is a key to their long marriage.
“Let that person be the person they are,” she said. “And you be the person you are.”
She said her husband contributed to the marriage by providing a good living and being a good father.
“We enjoy a lot of the same things, and we have great friends,” she said. “I hope I have been a good helper. I helped in the office 17 years.”
Teaching Sunday school to generations
Bowman taught scores of children — even grandchildren — in her 43 years at First Baptist Church.
“I’m pretty much on third generation now,” she said, adding that she taught mostly fourth and sixth grades.
Bowman already had experience teaching Sunday school at Tulsa’s Ranch Acres Baptist Church when she moved to Muskogee. She began teaching at First Baptist.
“When they know your background, they’ll ask,” she said.
Bowman said she likes fourth grade best.
“They already have their reading and writing skills, but they’re still young enough to be respectful and appreciate what you do,” Bowman said. “It’s an easy grade to teach.”
She said she has a great helper, Tracey Cox.
Bowman said the best part of her work has been “watching the children become believers and grow, become parents.”
She said she saw many changes over the generations. She said she appreciates how the material has kept up to date.
Still, Bowman said there are some things she always taught.
“First of all, that God is real, God is sovereign,” she said. “And Jesus Christ has provided a way to believe and follow him — and serve him.”
Doing important work with Civitan
Bowman also has seen changes in the 17 years she has been in the Civitan Club.
She said she was recruited by her sister-in-law, Betty Franks, who was local club president at the time.
“I like the organization. I like what they do,” she said. “One of the main emphasis early on was handicapped people. We still do a lot of service to handicapped.”
She said the Muskogee club has a fall costume party for adults with handicaps.
“You don’t know what happiness is until you’ve worked with some of these handicapped adults,” Bowman said. “And they are just so thankful for things that you do for them. They have such a good time at our parties.”
Civitan also offers scholarships for Oklahoma School for the Blind students and a meeting place for retired OSB teachers, she said. Civitan supports Special Olympics, Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-muscular Center, Murrow Indian Children’s Home and Muskogee Public Schools’ Camp Bennett. The club also offers clothes and school supplies to homeless students at Muskogee High and Alice Robertson Junior High.
“We’ve got a lot of good people in our club,” she said. “We care about our community. We care about the people in the community. What little we can do to help, that’s important to me.”
How did you come to be an Okie from Muskogee?
“I came to Muskogee to work after I got out of school at Connors. I met Charles, and we got married. We moved to Tulsa for 10 years and we moved back to Muskogee in 1974.”
What do you like best about Muskogee?
“The people are just lovely. I like that it’s big enough, but small enough that you get to get to know people and you get around easily. Not a lot of traffic.”
What would make
Muskogee a better
place to live?
“If we had more industry, more jobs for our young people.”
What person in Muskogee do you admire most?
“Rex Wilkinson. He was a minister at our church when we came here. He and his wife Joy were the most Christian example of anyone I ever worked for. Rex is the kindest, nicest, most thoughtful person.”
What is the most memorable thing to happen to you in Muskogee?
“I guess when Charles and I got married, probably.”
What do you do in
your spare time?
“What little I have, I garden. I like to read.”
How would you sum
up Muskogee in 25
words or less?
“It’s a great place to live. Good people. Caring community.”