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Borough leaders remember Bowman as someone who always stepped up; ex-councilor died last week

Posted 10/11/17

By Dan Miller


You could count on Mike Bowman.

You could count on seeing Bowman in his dress-green Army uniform, holding high an American flag while marching up …

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Borough leaders remember Bowman as someone who always stepped up; ex-councilor died last week

Mike Bowman carries a flag during Middletown’s Memorial Day Parade on May 25, 2015.
Mike Bowman carries a flag during Middletown’s Memorial Day Parade on May 25, 2015.
special to the press & journal by jodi ocker

You could count on Mike Bowman.

You could count on seeing Bowman in his dress-green Army uniform, holding high an American flag while marching up the center of Union Street each year during Middletown’s Memorial Day Parade.

You could also count on Bowman showing up at every borough council meeting — or at practically any other borough public meeting of any kind.

He was usually in the front row, sporting his working man uniform of blue jeans, white T-shirt, and a baseball cap announcing to the world that he was a Vietnam veteran. Bowman did two combat tours in Vietnam, and attained the rank of sergeant.

You could almost hear some people in the audience — and on council — wince whenever Bowman got up to speak. He rarely passed up an opportunity to address council, or whatever body was presiding on that night, to speak his mind.

Bowman died early Wednesday afternoon Oct. 4 as a result of a tragic accident. According to Middletown police, the 70-year-old Bowman was measuring a door inside a building at Wood and Wilson streets owned by a friend of his, when Bowman accidentally fell through a basement staircase that had several steps missing. 

Bowman hit his head on the concrete floor and went into cardiac arrest, police said. He was taken by ambulance to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

According to Bowman’s obituary published on PennLive, Bowman earned a number of military decorations for his time in the service, including the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with Six Bronze Stars, the Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 Device, two Army Commendation Medals, and three Overseas Bars.

Bowman was a member and past post commander of VFW Post 1620. He was also a member of the Lions Club of Middletown and a member of numerous other civic organizations, according to the obituary.

He is to be buried at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery will full military honors on Thursday, following funeral services to be held at Matinchek Funeral Home.

Not politically correct

Bowman didn’t care if he offended anyone. He was 100 percent politically incorrect, and proud of it. You could count on that, too.

In 2008 when then-Council President Rodney Horton started banging his gavel to get Bowman to stop talking, because Bowman had gone beyond the time allotted for public comment, Bowman responded by lifting his arm in a Nazi salute and saying “sieg heil.” Borough police escorted Bowman out of the meeting.

The incident was widely covered in the media, including an article in the Patriot-News that was written by Chris Courogen when Courogen was a reporter with the paper.

Courogen would later work for the borough from 2012 to 2016, mostly as the town’s director of communications but including service as the borough manager. Courogen got to know Bowman better during his time in borough hall.

“Like his style, or not, agree with his politics, or not, he was a man who was devoted to serving his nation and his community,” Courogen said of Bowman in an email to the Press & Journal. Courogen is now borough manager of Duncannon, a position he has held since February 2016.

Among those with whom Bowman clashed frequently, and publicly, was Mayor James H. Curry III.

The mayor joined many other people in saying that, while he and Bowman usually didn’t see things eye to eye, few if any other residents were as dedicated to Middletown as Mike Bowman.

“Whether you agreed with him politically or not, Mike Bowman volunteered to be on borough council. He served on numerous commissions and boards,” Curry said in a video that the mayor posted on his Facebook page following the announcement of Bowman’s death. “He was the type of person who would pick up trash on the street when he saw it. He carried our American flag proudly down the street during the Memorial Day service. He would put up flags on the square during the July Fourth holiday. He was just a person who cared about the community, and he would volunteer for things like cleaning up Hoffer Park.”

“He was an example of someone who talked the talk, but also walked the walk in terms of giving back to our town that we call home,” the mayor said.

Bowman “was an individual who always stood up for what he believed in,” said Councilor Diana McGlone. “You cannot find any fault in an individual who did that. Anytime there was a crisis in the community or a need, he always stepped up and assisted and volunteered and helped. We were fortunate to have him as a member of our community.”

Lending a hand

Bowman could always be counted on to assist as a volunteer during Middletown’s annual National Night Out, said Press & Journal Publisher Joe Sukle.

Former Borough Councilor Rachelle Reid, who more than once was on the other end of one of Bowman’s verbal arrows, also talked of Bowman’s devotion to the town. 

When National Night Out ran short of supplies like ice, spoons, and other “last minute” items, Bowman would volunteer to go out and get more, Reid told the Press & Journal in 2014. 

As Curry noted, Bowman had volunteered to serve on numerous borough boards and commissions over the years, including the police pension board, emergency management board, and the zoning hearing board, which Bowman chaired.

Bowman had also run for office, seeking election to mayor and borough council, both times unsuccessfully.

In January 2015 Bowman got his chance to serve on council, when council appointed him to fill a vacant seat from the First Ward that was created by the resignation of Tom Handley.

Bowman served throughout 2015, but did not seek election to a full term and stepped down at the end of the year.

Not missing a beat, Bowman moved from the big wooden council table with its more comfortable chairs, back to his front-row seat on the other side of the rail that separates elected officials from the residents in council chambers.

Bowman’s take-no-prisoners approach was still evident on Sept. 20 of this year, when he called Council President Damon Suglia “the most arrogant borough council president we have had in decades” because Suglia was seeking to limit public comment to four minutes.