Thomas William Bowen
age 81 passed away peacefully in his home during the evening on 3 Oct 2013. He was born on 1 July 1932 in Barnwell, S.C.
Mr Bowen was preceded by passing of both his parents, Nick and Susanne Bowen; his step-mother Ann Bowen; his siblings to include: Gerald Bowen, Mellte Bowen, Dorothy Bowen, his half-brother L.B. His first wife, Esther L. Bowen was lost to the family in 1991.
He is survived by his wife; Marilyn E. Bowen; his son, Thomas W. Bowen, JR and his wife, Terry; his step- daughter Rhonda Rennie and her husband, Jim; his step-son Randy Lee; his step grandchildren as follows; Erika Lemenager and her husband, Joe; Tara Rennie; James Lee and his wife, Kara; Katie Martin and her husband, Brandon; and numerous step- great grandchildren.
Mr Bowen's work career spans six decades of service to his country. Service to the Department of Defense (DOD) begun in 1949 includes; 21 years active duty in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) with a combat tour in Korea during the UN Police action; four years of the 21 dedicated to CIA intelligence gathering operations; and an additional 42 years as the Chief of Life Sciences/ Technical Director for A-12/U-2/ER-2/TR-1/SR-71 high altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) programs. Mr. Bowen's federal service retirement years totaled as 63 years. During these 63 years he continually worked with NASA on many programs to include high altitude environments/cabins to include the U.S. Space Shuttle.
During his 21 years as an USAF Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) he served as an integral part of life support to USAF ISR high altitude aviation programs in many international theaters to include the Far and Middle East; Europe; Cuba; North, Central, and South American; and Africa to mention a few theaters. He was instrumental in in supporting the physiological training and safety of hundreds of high altitude pilots (including many pilots from many other countries) who gathered intelligence for DOD during the Cold War (e.g. Cuban Missile Crisis) and Vietnam War. His support of physiological training and safety of pilots for ISR operations continued (including Afghanistan and Iraq) through his official retirement on 1 July 2012 due to ill health. He was part of the USAF team that installed record high altitude breaking altitudes in the US Army's CH-47 Chinook program. Recent accomplishments are the environmental retrofit and physiological equipping, training, and safety in the USAF program involving the WB-57 aircraft. His international training of pilots and design of high altitude environments/cabins in aircraft has included consulting and mentoring of West German pilots involved in programs dubbed EGRETT and Strato Lab. He tested and approved Soviet Union MIG 29 aircraft pressures suit as part of support for these two programs.
Mr Bowen was instrumental in supporting several independent civilian programs during his 63 career to include Mr Fosset's round the world trip in an air balloon and Mr Baumgartner's recent record breaking high altitude free fall parachute jump from approximately 130,000 feet. He was also consulting with Mr Fosset for his next extreme feat to break the world's altitude record for gliders staged out of New Zealand.
His legacy of technical support to high altitude flying in both the civilian and military world will not soon be surpassed; if ever.
Mr Bowen was humble, wise, patient, compassionate, and loyal to his country and truly the 'leader of his band'. His dedication to his work and his family will be a model for many to follow and admire throughout history. He will be sorely missed by his family, his friends, his many associates, and the world.
No services or viewing will be held in Yuba City, CA by his request. His remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery with military services appropriate to a retired S/MSGT at a date to be determined by Arlington.
Published in Appeal Democrat on Oct. 19, 2013