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David Orval Bowlan, 89, of Redfield, Arkansas, joined the Church Triumphant on February 29, 2012. Loving father, grandfather, brother, friend, and American hero, David Bowlan was a true example of the strength, tenacity, and fierce loyalty to family and country displayed by “The Greatest Generation.” From the rural farming community of Hamilton (near Carlisle) to a German Stalag, from the skies of Korea to aircraft manufacturing factories in Kansas and Alabama, from days of flying for the Civil Air Patrol in Little Rock to his last years in Redfield where David and his wife Brinda lived next door to their daughter Melissa. David Bowlan lived life with grace, courage, integrity, and humility fitting the true Southern gentleman and patriot his family, colleagues, and friends knew and respected.
At the onset of World War II, 19-year-old David Bowlan enlisted into the Army Air Corps. He would later remember the day in which he and his fellow Corpsmen were summoned into formation, given new caps, and then dismissed. This was the day they became members of the United States Air Force. He was later deployed to Italy. On his 25th flight over Weinemeustad, Austria as a Tech Sergeant, Top Turret Gunner, and Flight Engineer, his B-24 took enemy anti-aircraft fire. With the plane ablaze David parachuted to safety as one of three survivors out of a twelve man crew, but was later apprehended by German soldiers. He was imprisoned in German Stalag IV after being hospitalized for two months in Frankfurt for injuries sustained from the burning plane and subsequent jump. While imprisoned, a Red Cross parcel would lend him one of his greatest life “treasures,” a pocket Bible. During the 342 days as a German prisoner of war, David read his Bible from cover to cover. When the little Bible became so tattered it was in danger of falling apart, David sewed the tail of his shirt to the cover to keep the pages together. He kept the Bible for the remaining years of his life, even carrying it on the forced prisoner, “March Across Germany,” or “Black March.” The prisoners of war were liberated by the English Army on April 16, 1945.
Following his release from the Air Force, David returned home to farm in Carlisle and later moved to Conway to attend Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas ) and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. When the Korean Conflict began he was called up as a Reservist and became a Flight Engineer for planes that carried food and ammunition to the troops on the front line in Korea. During a routine mission, David’s plane took enemy fire and he was wounded in the arm. For his distinguished military service, David was awarded three Purple Hearts, an Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, an “Areas of Operation” medal (American, European, and VFW), a POW medal, a presidential citation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Korean theatre work medal.
Following the Korean Conflict, David moved to Wichita, Kansas and married Lee Cowan on February 4, 1951. She preceded him in death on November 29, 1987. Two sons were born to this marriage, Ronald and Richard. David continued his commitment to government service by working as a quality assurance specialist in the manufacturing of aircraft for the government. After retirement, David continued to work in the aircraft industry. At the age of 65 he finally decided to earn his pilot’s wings and would later greatly enjoy flying for the Civil Air Patrol and with his son, Rick.
David became a Mason in 1946 and has been active in the Shrine since 1947.
David married Brinda L. Hawes on July 1, 1989. They have a daughter, Melissa Vernor, and a son, Richard Crane. In the years following his move to Little Rock and later Redfield, David enjoyed speaking to elementary school children, telling the stories of his service, but more importantly conveying to the youngest generation the importance of freedom. Interviewed in 2005 after speaking to his daughter’s first grade class, David remarked, “I hope the children will consider every week ‘Freedom Week’ in this wonderful country in which we live.” After his visit that day, and the visits that would come, many children (and now adults) may do just that.
Survivors include his wife, Brinda, of the home; three sons, Ronald E. Bowlan (Dolores) of Harleysville, PA, Richard K. Bowlan (Debra) of Alachua, FL, and Richard E. Crane (Misty) of Rose Bud, AR; daughter, Melissa Vernor (Jeff) of Redfield; three grandchildren, Ashley Crane, Gabi Vernor, and Logan Crane; and sister, Thelma Bowlan Miller of Troy, TN.
David was preceded in death by wife, Lee Bowlan; his parents, Atlee B. and Olive Bowlan; and brother, T.B. Bowlan.
Visitation will be Friday, from 5-8 p.m. at Ralph Robinson & Son Funeral Home in Pine Bluff. The funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 2 p.m. at Hamilton Baptist Church (south of Carlisle) with Rev. Donald Lee Ruffin, officiating. Interment will follow at Hamilton Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the David O. Bowlan Memorial Scholarship Fund, Pine Bluff National Bank, Attn: Janice Acosta, P.O. box 7878, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71611.
Online register: www.ralphrobinsonandson.com