A farmer rooted in the soil of his family’s Greene Township homestead, Roger C.
Bowen, 92, of rural Portland, died Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, of COVID-19 in IU Jay
Born on Aug. 8, 1928, Roger was the fifth (and last survivor) of F. Raymond and A. Opal
(Wood) Bowen’s six children. He spent his entire life on the family farm, growing corn
and soybeans and gathering eggs from the chicken house to sell to neighbors; he retired
In 2005 he wrote in a short autobiography, “I’ll keep taking care of the farm as long as I
can. I’ve lived my whole life here, taking care of it while it’s taken care of me and my
family. What else would I do?”
In addition to farming, Roger sold seed for Northrup King Seed Company for many
years. He also tested grain samples in storage bins for the ACS office for several years
and assisted with land appraising in Greene Township for one summer.
But most notably he supplemented his farming income by flying commercial charter
flights – often for Portland Forge, Sheller-Globe, and Naas Foods executives -- and
giving flying lessons from Steed Field, his home away from home. He caught “flying
fever” as a young man, soloing on his 18th birthday and earning his private pilot’s license
His first eight years of schooling were in the one-room Center School before he
graduated from Portland High School in 1946. He served as vice president of his senior
class alongside Luetta June Smith, who was secretary-treasurer. They later dated and then
married on June 25, 1950, at First Methodist (now Asbury) Church in Portland.
Roger, who started almost every day of his adult life by driving into Portland to “hear the
gossip but leave it at the door” while drinking coffee at the now-closed Corner Café (and
previously at Laramie Lunch and the Breezeway Restaurant), served as an at-large
member of the Jay County Council from 1972 to 1992. He was council president when
the hospital opened in 1980 and spoke at its dedication ceremonies. His name is on a
plaque in the building where he died.
A founding member of the Portland Morning Optimist Club, Bowen served as its
president in 1987-88 and worked many shifts at the Optimist Building at the Jay County
Fairgrounds over the years. He was also a 67-year member of the Independent Order of
Odd Fellows’ Omega Lodge #218 and served as the Noble Grand in 1963, 2000, 2003,
and 2005 as well as its financial officer for many years.
In addition, Roger was a member of the Jay County Historical Society, donating to its
museum the Votaw Street toll building that had sat on the family farm for decades.
He was dedicated to Center Church, serving as treasurer/trustee/custodian for most of his
adult years and also as the adult Sunday School leader for some of those years. He
attended Center Church his entire life until it closed in 2018, when he transferred his
church membership to Asbury.
In addition to his wife Luetta, survivors include Pamela (Jack) Burks of Fishers; Kathy
Stolz of Franklin; Jeffrey of Portland; Douglas (Jacquie) of Greeley, Colo.; Mark of Falls
Church, Va; and Todd (Lionel Smith) of Evanston, Ill. His surviving family also includes
six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Predeceasing Roger were his parents and his siblings, Lena Morrical, Virginia Bowen,
Fred Bowen, Carl Bowen, and Gene “Bud” Bowen and a granddaughter, Abbie Bowen.
Calling will be from 10 a.m. until the 1 p.m. funeral on Sat., Oct. 3 at Asbury United
Methodist Church, 204 E. Arch St., Portland. He will be buried in Salamonia Cemetery
following the funeral.
The family requests memorial gifts be made to the church.
Mask will be required for attendance at the church.
Arrangements are entrusted to Williamson-Spencer and Penrod Funeral Homes in Portland.
Online condolences may be sent to www.williamsonspencer.com.
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