Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Karen Bowman

March 8, 1942 - October 13, 2022
Portage, MI



At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) Foundation
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-6256
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Karen Bowman modeled a strong work ethic and a drive to make a difference for those around her. Known for her love of nature and the environment, she enjoyed living simply, took pleasure in her role as a wife and mother, and will be deeply missed by her friends and family.

Karen’s childhood was surrounded by people in the helping professions. Her mother, Helen Pilzner, was a nurse and social worker who owned a clinic in an underprivileged area of the city. Specializing in substance abuse, she taught her children the value of serving the community and helping others in need. These lessons lasted well into Karen’s adult life. She enjoyed a long history of volunteering for special projects in each of the communities where she lived. Her father, Stan, was a salesperson with a traditional parenting style, which clashed at times with Karen’s rebellious side. Their family quickly grew and Karen cherished the role of being the oldest of 6 and taking care of the “younger three.” Her early developing years taught her independence as well as how to care for others. Unfortunately, her father passed away early in her life. Her mother remarried Bill Stokes, where she inherited two more siblings, Cynthia Stokes (Teare) and Shawn Stokes, never referring to them as step siblings. Her close relationship with several of her siblings were important to her throughout her entire life.

At an early age, Karen developed an interest in violin and began to excel. Her hard work and dedication earned her a scholarship to the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts and provided her the opportunity to play together with a couple adult groups. Because of her determination and her rebellious side, Karen was ready for college. She enrolled in Michigan State University where she graduated with a Bachelors of Science and obtained her teaching certificate.

She met her first husband, Bob Jeffery, through friends. They dated for a while before he moved to California, but they never lost touch. Bob eventually moved back to Michigan and they rekindled their relationship and eventually married. As a couple they were active and developed a close friendship group who enjoyed spending time together and, most of all, dancing. At the age of 29, Karen and Bob welcomed home their baby daughter, Dawn. Shortly after she was born, the couple moved from the Detroit area to a family neighborhood in Portage, Michigan. As a mother, Karen was loving and encouraging, but made sure to set clear boundaries and raised Dawn to be a strong, independent young woman. Although they had great memories together, their marriage ended in divorce, after 18 years. Karen worked hard to juggle her career and to raise a smart and strong teenager.

Professionally, Karen utilized her teaching degree and taught in Detroit for only a short time. She was never one to remain idle, and early on she opened a carpeting store, Casandra Custom Carpeting, after relocating to Portage. Karen later left the store to work for The Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce where she loved her job of promoting the community. She met a wonderful group of friends that she truly cherished throughout her life.

After Dawn’s graduation from high school, Karen moved to Colorado to experience a new life and a new environment. She then found pleasure in working for the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), where she helped administer their program focusing on environmentally friendly transportation and personal mobility. During that time, she also met John Bowman who eventually became her second husband. Later, John retired as a pilot from the Red Barons, but continued flying and working as a flight instructor. He and Karen were active in a local pilot’s group near their home in Colorado. As a result, Karen became involved in the airport, the flight school, and enjoyed assisting with their marketing and website. Her life was very much her own but revolved around many of John’s interests. Blessed by their love of people and fellowship, they attended the Mile High Church together in Colorado.

In addition to her responsibilities with the airport and flight school, Karen shared many of her own special interests. She loved her role as a grandmother and never missed an opportunity to tell people how proud she was of them. An avid reader, she always had a fiction novel or an adventure book within arm’s reach. Her love of books made her a natural at the popular game of Wordle. She was quite successful at finding the solution to the seemingly simple five-letter puzzle.

For entertainment, she enjoyed watching a variety of movies, especially romantic comedies. Her fierce independence and genuine care for others led to her volunteering for the Democratic Party and proudly sharing her viewpoint on a large range of topics. Karen’s personality was a unique blend of loving and feisty! All who knew and loved her will surely miss their talks on any topic as well as her good listening ear. Described as caring and loving, Karen will be greatly missed. May her loved ones hold on to her special memories and allow them to warm their hearts for years to come.

Karen Bowman, age 80, of Portage, Michigan, died on October 13, 2022. Karen was preceded in death by her husband, John Bowman; and siblings: Stephen Pilzner and Tom Pilzner. Surviving is her daughter, Dawn (Dan) Jaqua; grandchildren: Madison, Devin, and Ryann; and siblings: Mary (Greg) O’Neill, Kathleen Peck, Jim Pilzner, Cynthia (Chris) Teare, and Shawn (Jessica) Stokes. Visit Karen’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign her guestbook. Memorials may be directed to the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) Foundation. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.