County’s oldest veteran celebrates 100th birthday
By Dean Shipley
Clifford Bowen has hit the century mark. Today Feb. 8, 2013, Bowen of Lamplight Court in London, turns 100 years old. Bowen fully anticipated the day as evidenced by his calendar. The date of Feb. 8 bore a large X.
Just about a month before the big flood which hit this area, he was born in Bell County, Ky. on Feb. 8, 1913. It’s in the southeastern portion of Kentucky, in close proximity to the Cumberland Gap. As a young boy, he was given the nickname, Preacher. It was a long time ago, and when asked how or who dubbed him with the moniker Bowen said, I don’t know.
Bowen, one of six children, grew up on a farm. He recalled using a hoe to remove weeds from crop-planted fields.
In an area where coal was king, when he reached a certain age, he was expected to report to the mines for work. Following his father John’s footsteps, Preacher did so 84 years ago and was assigned to operate the tram motor in the mines. It hauled the rail-borne, coal-filled hoppers out of the mine. Those hoppers were then taken to a tipple to be dumped into larger cars for shipping.
When World War II broke out, Bowen left the coal mine and was assigned to the Army motor pool. The trucks he and his crew kept running support the ordnance corps in Luzon and New Guinea in the Pacific Theater. He mustered out at the rank of technical Sergeant in 1946.
After the war Preacher ventured into a dance hall in Harlan, Ky. It was there he asked a woman by the name of Lucille to dance. He found that one dance was not enough. He asked her to be his dance partner for life. She accepted.
In search of a better life, the Bowens moved north to Detroit, where Preacher found work in a General Motors plant. After taking up residence there, they found they enjoyed fishing together. A photo on the wall of Preacher’s apartment shows Lucille holding a stringer with 47 perch strung thereon. Lucille passed away in 1973. They had been married 27 years and had no children.
In the ’80s, Preacher was contacted by his sister-in-law, Ann Head, who asked him to Ohio. He did and assisted her raising her daughter, Mandy Walsh. They remain close.
Preacher, who formerly was VFW post commander and a busy volunteer, is the county’s oldest surviving veteran. As such in 2003, Preacher Bowen was given the privilege in 2003 of being the first person to ring the freshly cast Ohio Bicentennial bronze bell for Madison County.
Celebration of one-zero-zero he said will be kept low key as family members stop by to wish him well on the milestone birthday.