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Paynesville Press - June 9, 2004

War vet retires after 31 years as teacher

By Kayla Welle

After 31 years of teaching in the Paynesville Area Schools, Bob Bowden is calling it quits while he still enjoys his job. Acccording to Bowden, his favorite thing about teaching was developing a relationship with the kids.

Bob Bowden retires During his school day this year, Bowden taught two sections of reading and three sections of Minnesota history. While he enjoyed teaching that variety, Bowden feels that as he got older he enjoyed history more, especially the Civil War.

In a lot of cases, Bowden said, he is teaching a second generation of students. He thinks it's helpful that he taught a lot of his student's parents. According to Bowden, it builds trust.

Another thing Bowden really enjoys is keeping in touch with students and seeing them or hearing about their successful lives.

Through all of the changes that Bowden has seen, he believes that the most concerning is that kids have bigger problems today than they used to. Some people these days, according to Bowden, expect the school to take a bigger role in raising children. But, he added, the school is only one part of the equation along with parents, church, community, and activities.

Bowden really feels blessed to have gotten a job that he has truly enjoyed. Paynesville, he said, is a great community with great kids. Bowden, who has reached the rule of 90, decided that retirement is the right plan for him now. "I've seen people stay too long, until they don't enjoy it anymore. I would rather leave on a good note while I still enjoy what I do," Bowden said.

Bowden was born in Morris in 1947 and graduated from high school in 1965. He attended St. Cloud State University for two years and married Candy in 1967. He was drafted into the Army in 1968 and served in a sentry dog unit in the central highlands of Vietnam.

After Bowden got discharged in 1970, he went back to school to St. Cloud State and earned a degree in special education and elementary education.

In 1973, Bowden started teaching at the Paynesville Area Schools. He said he chose Paynesville because he remembers coming to summer Bible camp at the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds and because he really liked the community. Bowden started teaching fifth grade language arts and science at the elementary school. Since then, he moved to the middle school where he taught science and reading. When Rick Deegan retired a few years ago, Bowden also took over Minnesota history in sixth grade.

Bowden has also been active in Paynesville athletic programs. He really feels that athletics are good for students because it exposes them to life's ups and downs. "Life is never as good as when you are on the mountain and never as bad as when you are in the valley. Somewhere in the middle is reality," Bowden said.

Bowden coached junior high baseball, on and off, for 24 years and was the assistant wrestling coach from 1976 to 1986. During his 11 years, the Paynesville wrestling team made their first six state appearances.

Bowden said he decided that he couldn't coach wrestling anymore when he got home from a wrestling match in Canby at 2 a.m. and had to be at Fort Snelling by 7 a.m. While Bowden really enjoyed coaching wrestling, he said that he just couldn't coach and take care of his duties in the reserves at the same time.

Another big part of Bowden's life was and is the army. In 1968, Bowden was drafted and, until 1999, was "too dumb to quit," he explained. After he returned from active duty, Bowden stayed active in the Army Reserves until 1999, when he retired having reached the rank of Command Sergeant Major. In his last post, Bowden was the highest ranking noncommissioned officer in the 88th Regional Support Command. This command included units in six states and encompassed 15 percent of the 200,000 reservists in the country.

While Bob and Candy plan to take some trips, including one to Alaska, after Bob's retirement, they will stay living in Paynesville. "This is our home," he said, "This is a great community, and we will continue here." In his retirement, Bowden plans to play "Mr. Mom" while his wife works for another couple years and also plans to spend a lot of time in the fall hunting. Bowden said he will stay very involved with the school as four of his six grandchildren attend the Paynesville schools.

Bowden said that he will miss the kids and the people that he worked with everyday, but he is convinced he will stay busy in retirement with hunting, fishing, and being with his family.

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