He was born on June 5th, 1918. The son of Marcus and Etta Mae Bowles from Tennessee. Frank E. (not to be confused with “Frankie”, although it would confuse his great-grandchildren many years from then!) grew to become a family man. He eventually moved his family to settle into farm life in Michigan. He worked his way up in the Farmers (grain) Elevator Company, before purchasing the Potterville Elevator Company in 1961. (This would also confuse his great-grandchildren, who were always told their grandfather used to own one of the very first elevators in that area! I always thought of him whenever I pushed a button that magically took me to another floor in a tall building.) He was a hard worker, always making sure his wife and daughters were well taken care of.
Fast forward. The tree continues growing up and out. The roots continue to spread wide.
I have flashes of memory from growing up with my Great-Grandpa Bowles. I remember his casual smile, and southern drawl that made every word he said entertaining to listen to. The stories, both short and long, about what life was like. About things I understood, and about things I had no clue of. The reminders to pray. To love Jesus. To thank God. The long lines of card-tables set up for extended-family gatherings in their basement. I remember the understanding somewhere in the back of my mind that this was a man who wasn’t applying for credit cards anytime soon. I remember being that boy who stared in awe at the amount of money in my Christmas cards, and the humble loving reminder that came with the crisp $5 bill in every birthday card. I remember his smile as he watched me eat a giant Belgian Waffle with strawberries from Big Boy. I remember the Christmas bags of goodies that always came with Bubbliscious, Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Snowmen, and some large fresh fruit anchoring it all down.
But most of all, I remember his steadfast presence in love in the midst of family chaos. When walls were coming down all around, and relationships were stretched thin, there they were. Humbly admitting they didn’t know all the details on everything that was happening, but that they loved us….and wanted the best for us. That they were proud of us. Reminding us that God was still God….and Jesus was still with us.
Even as I grew older, moved away to college, and into adulthood…those cards and reminders of their love came, and began to come to my wife and children as well. (Although I still smile as I remember the “quote marks” on either side of my name….as if it were a nick-name. My guess is the pen was held by grandma…but no doubt at his approving southern-sounding nod.) Never requiring anything (but appreciating a 5-minute phone-call “Thanks”…and giving us the real gift – a reminder that they pray for us regularly), every birthday was celebrated with another crisp $5 bill. In my mind and heart…those cards will always continue to come.
I’m thankful for the stories, both known and unknown. The ones that will be told as we gather to mourn and celebrate a life well and faithfully lived…and the ones that will be told as we remember them in gatherings in the future. But most of all, I’m thankful to be a part of the story he helped pen….the story that we continue to write in our family even now….