Metro Atlanta school nurse, 70, with COVID-19 dies

Wilma Gail Bowen, 70, a nurse at Hiram Elementary School, died on Thanksgiving Day hours after her husband of five decades, Willard Daniel Bowen, 73. Their daughter, Karen Bowen Kirby, said they both had COVID-19.
Wilma Gail Bowen, 70, a nurse at Hiram Elementary School, died on Thanksgiving Day hours after her husband of five decades, Willard Daniel Bowen, 73. Their daughter, Karen Bowen Kirby, said they both had COVID-19.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

A school nurse at a Paulding County elementary school died on Thanksgiving Day while hospitalized with COVID-19.

Wilma Gail Bowen, 70, died hours after her husband, who also was ill with the virus, their daughter Karen Bowen Kirby said. Willard Daniel Bowen was 73.

The Douglasville couple had known each other since high school and had been married for half a century. When it became apparent that her father was going to die, her mother “gave up,” Kirby said.

“She wasn’t going to live without my daddy.”

Wilma Gail Bowen, 70, a nurse at Hiram Elementary School, in the hospital with her husband of five decades, Willard Daniel Bowen, 73. He died early on Thanksgiving Day and she died later in the day. Their daughter, Karen Bowen Kirby, said they both had COVID-19.
Wilma Gail Bowen, 70, a nurse at Hiram Elementary School, in the hospital with her husband of five decades, Willard Daniel Bowen, 73. He died early on Thanksgiving Day and she died later in the day. Their daughter, Karen Bowen Kirby, said they both had COVID-19.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The Paulding County School District confirmed the death of Bowen, a nurse at Hiram Elementary School, but did not confirm the cause. The district also did not answer questions about whether contact tracing had indicated where Bowen might have been infected or whether students and faculty at the school were asked to quarantine in connection with her infection.

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Kirby is an administrator with the Paulding schools. She said she does not know where her parents were infected with the virus.

The family buried Kirby’s grandmother on Nov. 11 — she also had COVID-19 — and Bowen stayed home from the school to grieve her mother-in-law’s death until she was admitted to the hospital herself, Kirby said.

Wilma Gail Bowen (right), 70, a nurse at Hiram Elementary School, died on Thanksgiving Day hours after her husband of five decades, Willard Daniel Bowen, 73. Their daughter, Karen Bowen Kirby, pictured with them during a vacation several years ago, said they both had COVID-19.
Wilma Gail Bowen (right), 70, a nurse at Hiram Elementary School, died on Thanksgiving Day hours after her husband of five decades, Willard Daniel Bowen, 73. Their daughter, Karen Bowen Kirby, pictured with them during a vacation several years ago, said they both had COVID-19.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

She said she had tried to get her mother to retire, alongside her dad, who in retirement had become known as a trader in antique items, or “junk,” as his daughter put it. “If you had something for sale, you called Willard.”

But her mother didn’t like the idea of staying at home, knowing she would miss the children. She worried about students with significant conditions, such as diabetes.

“She loved her babies. She would do anything to make sure they were taken care of,” Kirby said.

She was a nurse at Hutchens Elementary School in Paulding from 2011 until this year, when she switched to Hiram Elementary, the district said. Paulding has closed Hutchens through Wednesday and students are attending online-only after COVID-19 infections over the Thanksgiving break caused “a large number” of staff and student quarantines, the district said in a Saturday letter to parents at the school.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Hiram. The Hightower Family Funeral Home is asking those who attend to remain 6 feet apart from those not sharing the same household and to wear personal protective equipment.

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