The week before Thanksgiving, Gene Bowens Sr. was a patient at Emory University Hospital Midtown.
He was concerned he’d have to miss celebrating Thanksgiving with his family in Leesburg, Fla. It was his favorite holiday, and he just couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from his loved ones.
Two days before the family gathering, he was released and it looked like he wouldn’t have to miss this year’s festivities. But on the way home from Emory he had a stroke, and his wife turned the car around and took him back to the hospital. He was transferred to Grady Memorial Hospital.
There would be no trip to Leesburg, his boyhood home. Instead, many of Bowens’ family members gathered in his Grady hospital room.
“We were all around him, singing and having a good time,” said his son, Gene Bowens Jr. of Bowie, Md. “And I looked over and a single tear dropped from his eye. And I think that was his way of saying he was glad he didn’t miss this Thanksgiving with his family. We were all there.”
Eugene Harold Bowens Sr. of Atlanta died the next day, Nov. 23. He was 74. A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. An Omega Psi Phi memorial service is planned for 7:30 p.m. Friday, with a wake to follow, at Murray Brothers Funeral Home, which is in charge of arrangements.
Bowens was born in Fort Myers, Fla., reared in Leesburg and he spent much of his adult life in Florida. He graduated from Florida A&M University with a degree in sociology in 1961. When he couldn’t get a job in his chosen field, he returned to FAMU and received his teaching certification. He taught in Largo, Fla., until a statewide teacher walk-out in 1968.
“I went back, but he didn’t” said his wife of nearly 50 years, Harriett Witsell Bowens. “He had his eye on doing something different, on helping people in a different way.”
He started working for a nonprofit community development corporation, and two years later that work brought Bowens and his family to Atlanta. He took a job with Atlanta University and later started working with Interfaith Inc., a nonprofit housing development corporation. He worked with the organization for more than 30 years, his family said.
Fulton County Commission Vice Chairwoman Emma Darnell said Bowens was a treasured member of the Atlanta community and believed in doing what needed to be done.
“Gene was an action person,” she said. “He didn’t have to devote his life to public service; he had a choice. But the community was better for it.”
“He not only inspired people in the community, but he inspired us, too,” said daughter Lynn B. Turner of Tallahassee, Fla.
“He was love,” added his youngest daughter, Kamia B. Bell of Douglasville. “A lot of people saw the business side of him, and didn’t get to see the love he had for friends and family.”
In addition to his wife and three children, Bowens is survived by a brother, Carl “Tony” Reynolds; sisters Dorothy B. Leeks, Alguria Bowens, Karen Malone, Janice Reynolds and Debbie Reynolds, all of Florida; and seven grandchildren.
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