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Life Story / Obituary
With grace and gratitude, Sheila Bowser lived a life rich in family and friends. A woman who embraced each day as a gift, Sheila gave freely and loved fully. She made room in her heart for everyone and confidently navigated the world with integrity, humor, and grace. Sheila loved the stories she lived and witnessed, listening with sincerity, reflecting the best in everyone, and making others feel that they were the most interesting person she had ever met. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Sheila welcomed life’s joys and sorrows with equal gratitude, recognizing there are treasures in every moment. An inspiration to all who were blessed to know her, Sheila will long be remembered and so very missed.
As the nation pulled itself up by its bootstraps following the Great Depression, the power of hope undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, people continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. While the first jet engine took to the skies and ballpoint pens began finding their way into purses and pockets, the tunes of Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, and Ella Fitzgerald topped the music charts. Nowhere was there more hope than in Benton Harbor, Michigan, as William and Bernice (Kreiger) Klum welcomed their daughter Sheila into their family on November 28, 1937.
Growing up on her grandparents’ farm in Southwest Michigan, Sheila’s life centered on family values. As her father served in the military throughout Europe, her mother tended the home and held little jobs to help make ends meet. Sheila looked after the smaller animals around the farm including chicks, bunnies, or any creatures that needed a safe home.
From the start, Sheila loved the beach, being out in the sun, and always looked for ways to enjoy both! As a teen, Sheila’s first jobs included waitressing at the yacht club during the summer and working as a candy striper, but what she earned for her days wages she’d quickly spend on meals. After graduating from Benton Harbor High School, where she served as the Editor of the school newspaper, Sheila continued her education at Michigan State University. She was a member of Chi Omega sorority and studied journalism. Realizing she didn’t particularly care for school, she left MSU in search of greater independence and adventure. With her signature, “can do” attitude and unwavering work ethic, she was soon working for American Airlines as a stewardess, traveling the world and ensuring passengers’ comfort.
While soaring the friendly blue skies, a friend introduced her to the man who’d become her husband. Bill was from the small, industrial town of Butler, PA, where many of his family members still live today. He was attending law school at the University of Michigan at the time, and the pair met for a blind date. Instantly smitten, they soon set their eyes on sharing the rest of their lives in one another’s good company.
The happy couple married and raised three children. While Bill practiced law in Kalamazoo, Sheila poured herself into caring for her kids, creating a loving and beautiful home for her family. The quintessential wife and mother, Sheila relished in family life striking the perfect balance between order and play. She was a funny and fun parent who never complained about her kids and found humor in everything. With an artist’s soul, she had a wonderful way about her, always finding the beauty and wonder in everything. She supported, defended, and encouraged her children at every turn with unwavering devotion. A lover of books and exploring the many facets of humanity, Sheila read sophisticated authors like Kurt Vonnegut and encouraged her kids to do the same, which caused some school librarians to question the kids’ reading selections.
While Sheila never complained nor left any work unfinished, she gracefully ensured a clean, calm, and peaceful sanctuary for Bill to return home to at the end of many hours and much travel as an attorney. Friends and family were always warmly welcomed and made comfortable in her home as well. Even Martha Stewart would be envious of the way Sheila’s three cottages, which were featured in national interior decorating magazines, warmly enveloped guests with elegance and comfort.
Committed to continuous growth, Sheila was always willing to say “yes” to a new adventure. She loved the movies and was a longtime member of the Kalamazoo Film Society. She enjoyed attending productions at the Little Theater on WMU’s campus and took art classes at the art center. She never took life too seriously and easily laughed at herself, especially in the face of silly mistakes. This was most evident in the time she and a friend signed up for a yoga class at the YMCA, only to find out during the first session they’d actually enrolled in a belly dancing class. With hearty laughter, they stayed anyway. Over the years, Sheila also enjoyed traveling. She loved wintering in Islamorada, Florida, amongst her wonderful circle of friends and treasured a marvelous trip to Italy where she soaked in the art, food, colors, and people.
A pioneer in everything she did, Sheila embraced every new endeavor. A passionate volunteer at the state hospital, Sheila became one of the first Patient Advocates, helping define and create a new support system for young women in need. Whether decorating the home, painting with watercolors, crafting homemade ornaments, learning Yoga, or volunteering her time and talents, she naturally saw the potential of what things could be and afforded the space for that potential to blossom.
When her children married, Sheila delighted in hosting their weddings at her home. With signature grace and style, she awed their guests with the way she opened her heart and home, creating beauty, joy, and powerful memories for all. As her family grew, Sheila welcomed her role as a grandmother. She doted on her grandsons and supported them in their aspirations. She taught them to not be afraid of the water (she never learned to swim) and spent any time she could with them, reading, crafting, and encouraging their abilities. She was so proud to witness the fine young men they’ve become.
Honest to a fault and joyful as one could be, Sheila found humor and goodness all around her. The memories of her signature laugh will be cherished forever. As we imagine life in the absence of Sheila’s steadfast love, may we find comfort in the privilege of carrying her legacy of joy forward. With each adventure we embark on, hardship we find gifts in, stranger we welcome as a friend, or moment we indulge in fruit pie for breakfast, we celebrate the many ways Sheila gifted our lives. In so doing, we keep her bright and beautiful spirit alive and radiating out to a world that so needs her warmth and comfort.
Sheila Bowser, age 83, died peacefully at home on November 28, 2020, surrounded by her loving family. Preceded in death by her parents, lovingly carrying her legacy forward are her beloved husband of 61 years, Bill; 3 children: Carrie (Rachel) Bowser-Switzer, Anne (Jim) Lewis, and Bill (Julie) Bowser; and 2 grandchildren: Bill and Jacob, of whom Grampy and Nana are incredibly proud.
Cremation has taken place. A gathering will be held at a later date. Visit Sheila’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read her Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Humane Society. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.