Saturday, December 22, 2018

Paul Bowman

     The St. Tammany Retired School Employees Association spotlighted the educational career of Paul Bowman last week at its quarterly meeting in Mandeville.  In an article written by Peggy Sharp and published to their website, the group told about Bowman, who has dedicated his career to making sure his students were never bullied!  Why?  Because he knows exactly what it feels like to be picked on as a child!  

     Paul Bowman was born in Frankfurt, Indiana.  He was the 6th of nine children.  The first eight (Max, Dale, Glen, Rex, Mark, Paul, Karl, and Gene) were all boys and Number 9 (Lois) was the lone girl!  But at birth Paul had a problem with the growth of his neck muscles which caused him to develop a severe stutter.  He became a victim of teasing and bullying by other children.  

     Paul remembers he drew his strength from the singer Mel Tillis who had a severe stutter when he spoke but could sing perfectly without stuttering.  This gave Paul hope, as well as the story that Moses was also a stutterer.  He figured if they could overcome obstacles, he could, too!  And with the help of several surgeries as a child, his stuttering was virtually eliminated.

     Following in the footsteps of his hardworking farming parents, Paul’s first job was at age seven, mowing the grass of a retired school teacher with a push lawnmower.  At age eleven, he became a farm hand, milking cows and driving a tractor for 50 cents an hour!  In later years, he became a laborer at a Firestone tire factory and an ammonia company.

     After high school, Paul left Indiana for Southeastern Louisiana College in Hammond, LA where his older brothers Rex and Glen, who had received a full basketball scholarship, attended.  Paul participated in track and field events and graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1970.  

     Although he returned to Indiana to teach science and physical education for nine years, he eventually settled in St. Tammany Parish where he taught for 30 years at Fifth Ward Junior High.  During that tenure, Paul taught life, earth and physical sciences as well as physical education.  He also coached football, basketball, volleyball, track and served as the Athletic Director.

     Retiring in 2011, Paul worked with five principals during his time at Fifth Ward:  Coyt Woods, Bruce Davis, Bill Bruggman, Brandon Clanton and Jimmy Smith.  

     While Paul is officially retired from the school system, he is still very much involved with many of the sideline activities he participated in for many years.  He has been a major figure in promoting the annual Punt/Pass and Kick contests in this area where he was recently the Head Official at the National Punt/Pass and Kick contest at the Saints Facility earlier this month. 

     Paul is one of the main officials in Track and Field meets at LSU and various universities as well as the high school championship meets.  He also coordinates, officiates and participates in the Louisiana Senior Olympic Games.

     And in his spare time, he drives a charter bus. He has been a certified charter bus driver for 38 years and is also a tour director for KOA Campgrounds.  He is still a full-time driver during the summer and on holidays and has been all over the United States.

     When asked what was his favorite trip while driving the charter bus, he said it was the school trips he would take with his students from Fifth Ward exploring the historic sites in Philadelphia, New York City and Washington DC.  This was a tradition every three years for many years at that school.  He cherishes the note he received from a grown man who thanked him years later for one of those trips because the man had never gone out of state again.

     This is also a very busy time of year for Paul because he creates handmade wooden Christmas ornaments for family members.  From cutting the figures out of wood to carefully painting each by hand, Paul celebrates the season with his own version of a street car, a fleur-de-lis or the St. Louis Cathedral.  He then thoughtfully wraps each one and mails them to his siblings, nieces and nephews just in time for Christmas.

     Paul’s bucket list includes a trip to Alaska, one of the few states he has yet to visit.  Upon reflecting on the sixth son of a farmer in Indiana, and what that young man with a stutter has grown up to accomplish, there is no doubt that Paul will make it to Alaska soon. He will probably get there just in time to officiate a track meet.