(L) Daughter, Margaret Blender, son-in-law, Stephen
Blender, John (Jack) Bower, grandson, Jonathon Gammon and Alma
Blender (Stephen's mother) celebrate a family birthday
Sunderland made by Short
It's funny how things happen sometimes
and the result is, you meet the most interesting people.
In a restaurant the other day, at the next table, there was obviously a
family birthday going on. The birthday gift-bag was there, the card and
a cupcake with a candle. Since the tables were very close together, I
couldn't help but overhear the 'birthday gentleman' say that Vera Lynn
had been his favourite singer and his favourite song was her rendition
of 'Till We Meet Again'.
I leaned over and said, I couldn't help overhearing, and that Vera was
one of my favourites too. He said it was impossible because that was
another time and generation. After assuring him that she was and that I
knew the words to all her songs, I asked him what birthday he was
celebrating and if he had been in the war.
Born and raised in Ripley, John Bowers, had turned 88 that day and said
that he had, indeed, been in the war. "I was a dashing young man of 19,"
he laughed, "and I couldn't wait to go."
He ended up being a pilot and flew both the Sunderland
manufactured by the famous Short Brothers and the B24, a difficult
planes to fly at the best of times. As pilot of a Sunderland, he had
flown over the North Atlantic, one of the most treacherous spots of the
war. Then, as pilot of the B24, he had ferried special British, Canadian
and Indian troops back and forth between England and India.
"The bomber doors of the B24 had been sealed shut," explained Bowers,
"and plywood flooring had been put in along with seating for 26 troops.
We flew out over the Atlantic and hop-skipped across Africa to India.
Anyway, before we left, we always listened to Vera Lynn, the services'
06/05/2009 04:08 PM
Bowers later became a teacher in Stratford and
eventually a professor. He then became Director of Education for Bruce
County and moved to Chesley, where he remains today. "Once I started
work there, my late wife and I decided to build our home in Chesley,"
said Bowers, "and, afterward, I just stayed. I retired in 1986 and just
recently drove by what used to be the board of education building that
was put up when I was director. Today, it's just a pile or rubble."
"Life goes on I guess ...", he sighed.
In addition to Vera Lynn, education and flying, John Bowers has an
interest in photography and lighthouses. "I did a special series of
photos that included the Kincardine light, Point Clark and Chantry
Island. I think Chantry is without a doubt a remarkable commitment by
volunteers." [He didn't know that I had been a volunteer with the
Chantry restoration for several years.]
What a wonderful way to spend an hour or so. So, Mr. Bowers, once again,
I wish you a happy birthday and many more to come.
And, for anyone who wants to hear the most interesting stories that life
has to offer, take the time to listen to a veteran or, better yet ...
take the time to start the conversation.