Remember When: Remembering Ann Bowen McCown

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, May 4, 2017

It is with some apprehension that I open my alert e-mails from McFarland Funeral Home, because sometimes I see the name of a long-cherished friend. I first met Ann and Barry Bowen when they were little girls. Their dad, Al Bowen, was the well-loved manager of Duke Power’s local office. Al had asked me to come over to assemble a dressing table for one of the girls, and stay for dinner.

All of this and more is chronicled in my columns over the years, as Mrs. Al Bowen (Ellen) became my homeroom teacher during my senior year at Tryon High. Even though Al was transferred to Gastonia for most of his career, they returned to Tryon when he retired, as so many of us do.

Ann grew up to marry a local boy and thus unite two of Tryon’s finer families . . . Carl Beust and I had often visited Vance McCown when he lived near Carl and another friend, Billy Hoots. Vance became my attorney to handle legal matters as I bought properties here, anticipating retirement. When Vance died, we moved to Andy Haynes, who discovered that Vance had saved every sketch I made for him in answering his airplane questions!

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When I was asked to present a paper on Seth Vining Sr. to the Polk County Historical Association, I asked one of my English teachers to introduce me. Miss Anne Sevier had retired and was living in Landrum. Widowed Ellen Bowen was living at White Oak, but could not attend, so I went over and read my paper to her. They both checked and approved my effort.

Ann is so much like her Mom that I often felt that I was visiting Mrs. Bowen. Barry was a very active little blonde girl who grew up to bring five big hunks of manhood into the world. I had not seen Barry since she was that little girl until the services for Ann, so we had some catching up to do.

Vance’s rheumatoid arthritis started its dirty work on him right after high school, and in later years confined him to a specially adapted wheelchair. Ann faithfully transferred him from the chair to their car and vice versa so that he could meet the many obligations he set for himself in the community.

I told their daughter Katherine Wall in making an appointment with Andy that I wanted to go over to visit Ann, and she said “Good.” Did not happen. It seems we all get too busy, caught up in a myriad of doctor visits and civic “duties,” and keep putting off visiting friends until it is too late.

My late friend Don Pattie even wrote a poem about this apparently universal failing, and concludes with this verse: “In life and dreams I lost my friend/For it seemed I had no time/We take for granted those we love/Then weep for Auld Lang Syne.”     

Too many times of late I have missed seeing dear friends here because I was elsewhere. I had to rush from a medical appointment in Hendersonville to Holy Cross to attend the services for Ann. I got to visit with many in her family and lots of our friends at the reception afterward. Ann’s daughter Ellen Schwab looks much like her namesake; I was quite pleased that she remembered me from only one earlier meeting. Son Bill seemed surprised when I called him a modern Ansel Adams, thinking of his talent for making remarkable black-and-white photographs when everyone else is snapping photos in glorious natural color.

There were many hugs and few tears as we enjoyed a fellowship that we know will be repeated one day in a far better place than this.