Bowens say love, trust and laughter key to marriage that's lasted 70 years

Sharon Gilbert, right, prepares to read an anniversary card to her parents, Ada and Jim Bowen, during a celebration of their 70th anniversary at the Bowens' home in Quincy. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Jun. 12, 2013 10:49 am Updated: Jun. 26, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Ada Powell probably figured the boy coming into White's Grill had his eye on her.

"He'd leave me a nickel tip under the coffee cup," she said.

In 1942, a nickel tip was good money for Powell, who waitressed at the diner at 525 Hampshire, and a way for Jim Bowen to start winning her heart.

"She was just a lovely person to be around," Bowen said.

The couple dated for about six months, married on June 10, 1943 and just celebrated their 70th anniversary.

The secret to a long and happy marriage, they say, is simple.

"Just love one another. Trust one another," she said. "Don't argue about money. Just enjoy life."

They blended hard work with plenty of love and laughter to raise a family that's grown to include three children, eight grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

"We've always had children around us. That's what kept us young," Mrs. Bowen said.

She was 18, and he was 17, when they married in a double wedding with her twin sister Eva and her husband Clyde Bunch in a minister's home in Palmyra, Mo. Ada wore pink; her sister wore blue.

All four worked at White's.

"Eva and I were both waitresses. They were both cooks," Ada said. "The grill was only closed one day a week. That's the day we picked to get married."

They celebrated with supper at an aunt's and going to a dance in Mendon.

"The next day, we went back to work," she said. "We worked until he was 80 years old. He had four jobs at one time."

She waitressed, then worked 17 years at Motorola. He worked 38 years at Gardner Denver Co., then drove a school bus for Liberty for 22 years and farmed on the side in Liberty.

Now they focus more on having fun.

"We have racehorses," she said. "That's our hobby now."

The pacers and trotters are trained at the fairgrounds in Mount Sterling, then the couple watch them race the summer fair circuit beginning in mid-June.

"It gives them something to do," son-in-law Kenny Gilbert said. "That's the key to a long life, to keep going. They stay active."

Giving back to the community, and supporting family, also was important to the couple.

"When girls weren't allowed to play baseball, I had to play on a boy's team for about a year. I asked Dad if I got girls together if he would coach the team. That got all the federation leagues going," daughter Sharon Gilbert said. "My mom said she didn't need to go to the games. My dad and I always talked about the ballgames when we came home."

They've always traveled, taking dozens of trips to Colorado over the years to visit family, but the Quincy area always was home.

He grew up in Mount Sterling, and she never lived more than 20 miles away from Quincy. They started out married life living in the Gem City, then moved to the south bottoms, Liberty and back to Quincy about 20 years ago where they enjoy spending time with friends and family.

"Mom still makes dinner for us every Monday night," Sharon Gilbert said.

Fried chicken and apple pie are family favorites, "but your cherry pie isn't bad. She bakes the best pies around," Kenny Gilbert said.

Laughter punctuates any family gathering along with stories like camping out by the side of the road on vacation trips or when the Bowens, who lived on a farm at the time, wanted to take their son Mike some fresh eggs and stuck them in a suitcase for the airplane trip. Eggs ended up all over the clothes, but "we always had some fun," Mrs. Bowen said.

"I thank the Good Lord that we had everything we had and enjoyed everything we had," she said. "I just think it's been a wonderful life."




Seven decades of marriage went by "too fast" for Ada and Jim Bowen.

But along the way, they've learned a thing or two about making a marriage work.

"We just talk everything over," she said.

"She goes her way, and I go mine," he said, but "she's always there to help me out, every time I need something."

Their children -- Sharon Gilbert, Mike Bowen and Vickie Gillihan -- learned from example some important lessons about love and marriage.

"Be happy with each other. Let each other do what they want to do," Mike said.

"Be more patient and bake lots of sweets. Mom loves to bake," Vickie said.

"I don't think they ever go to bed mad at each other," Sharon said.

But Sharon's husband Kenny thinks his father-in-law may have figured out the most important thing.

"You've learned to say ‘yes ma'am, yes ma'am, whatever you want ma'am,'" he said, drawing laughter from the rest of the family.