By Nancy Keaton
Rose Bowman is one of those people you would describe as “having more energy in her little finger than I have in my whole body.” And it’s contagious. After a conversation with her, listening to her passion and watching the sparkle in her eyes, you feel energized as well.
Bowman likes to get things done. She spent two terms in the Washington State Legislature in the House of Representatives, putting in many long days. “Many times I came home after my husband went to bed and was up and gone the next day before he got up,” Bowman explains. But she really enjoyed the ability to get things done. The best part, she smiles, was “listening to people who had challenges and figuring out a way to solve those challenges.”
She comes by that can-do attitude through her upbringing. She was raised on a farm in a poor area of Arkansas, where her grandfather was a minister. It was natural in her home to help anyone who needed it. There were no libraries so her mother solved the problem, creating a library in their home, complete with a check out system.
After serving two terms in the legislature, Bowman “came home” as she calls it, and in 1994 ran for Lewis County Treasurer, a position she won and held for 20 years. While it may sound like a mundane job, for Bowman, it was simply another opportunity to solve problems. The first female county treasurer in Lewis County, she truly enjoyed working with the 70+ districts in the county, helping manage their funds.
While serving as treasurer, her friends wanted her to join a local Rotary club. But at the time Bowman was on several boards and committees – her plate was full. Finally, in 1996 she joined the Chehalis Rotary and was what she calls, “a member.” She did whatever she was asked, writing the newsletter and fundraising.
She realized that she wanted to do more and now gives a speech called, “Are you a member of Rotary or are you a Rotarian?” which tells her story of service. Bowman explains that at her first district conference she met a woman who was part of a team that went to Mexico. The woman shared that at a school for disabled children the police came, but it was to take kids home because there was no bus. This set Bowman on fire, trying to figure out how to solve the problem. She contacted Twin Transit and learned there were buses being sold through auction. She showed up to the auction, bid $500 and won. She still seems shocked that she pulled that off. “So I was off on my first international service project,” Bowman beams.
A local tire store put on new tires, her husband’s business, Kresky Auto Repair and Electric, checked out the mechanical system, the bus was painted and the seats were re-upholstered. Then she met another woman who had an ability to get wheelchairs, and Bowman obtained several and put them on the bus. Next, someone had to drive the bus through Laredo, Texas to Mexico. Remember Bowman’s upbringing? “I’m a farm girl,” she laughs. “If I can drive a tractor, I can drive a bus.”
Bowman and fellow Rotarian, Alex Goedhard, headed off for Mexico. Near the Columbia Gorge, the bus broke down. Bowman noticed a county work shop and asked for help. The staff got them back on the road in no time. “Every time we ran into a challenge, people were there to help us because we were Rotary,” Bowman smiles.
She has had many other “boots on the ground” experiences since joining Rotary, including helping to vaccinate children in India against polio.
There are over 27,000 Rotary clubs around the world, including clubs in Russia, China, and Africa. In 2004-2005, Bowman was selected as president of Chehalis Rotary, then went on to become Assistant Governor and is now the 2015-2016 District Governor. Rotary is comprised of 547 districts. Bowman’s district, 5020, includes 88 clubs in total with one more coming soon in Victoria, Canada. Bowman has visited 60 of the clubs so far. “It’s both awesome and exhausting,” Bowman laughs.
It is even more impressive because Bowman is doing all this while fighting cancer at the same time.
Bowman’s energy is mirrored in her message. “Everyone would benefit by joining a club or organization with fellowship and world service. Rotary is my passion and everyone should choose something so we’re giving back.” She goes on to say that the Rotary theme this year is, “Give a gift to the world.”
Bowman says, “Each one of us is molded by family and community. It’s all about giving back because so many people have helped you be who you are.”