BOWLES, LINDA KAY SWOPE, owner of Moore's Sewing and Learning Center, founder of the Belknap Neighborhood Fall Festival, Week in the Highlands, and St. Paul United Methodist Church's Faith Quilters, Project Linus "blanketeer", community activist, quilter, teacher, friend and mother, passed away on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at the age of 52. She died with family at her side.
Linda was strong, fighting her ovarian cancer until the very end. She worked over 40 hours a week at Moore's, her second child, until two weeks ago. She continued to work and was a pillar of strength for those who loved her and wanted them to have that same strength through their own struggles.
Linda was born and raised in Gibson City, IL. While growing up in Gibson City, she was heavily involved in 4-H, Future Homemakers of America and the Girls Athletic Association. She graduated as the salutatorian of her high school class. During this time, her father, Charles Richard Swope, heavily influenced her generous and community-oriented spirit by giving his time helping rural farmers in Southern Illinois as the County Farm Advisor, for the University of Illinois. During this time, her grandmother taught her how to sew and quilt, which she continued to do the rest of her life. This influenced Linda to begin her long career of giving back to others as long and as often as possible.
She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1983 with a bachelor's in Family Services and completed her master's in Long-Term Care Administration from the University of North Texas in 1986.
She began her professional career in nursing home administration at Isabella Geriatric Center in New York City, one of the largest long-term care facilities in the nation, where she interned and later became an assistant administrator at the facility. At Isabella, she oversaw a major renovation of the facility, worked with the local employees who lived in the area to improve their local environment and developed a project to chronicle the experience of Holocaust survivors at her facility. She was actively involved and cared for all of the residents in the over 500 bed facility.
In 1986, Linda met the love of her life, Chip Bowles at a mutual friend's wedding. It was love at first sight and a year later, they were married. He stayed by her side for over 26 years. She moved with Chip to Cincinnati where she became the Director of the Alzheimer's unit of Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Home and later became an administrator of the Glen Manor Home where she worked until 1992 when she gave birth to her only son. After that, she moved to Louisville, Kentucky where she transitioned to a new phase of her life as a full time mother and a community activist.
After moving to Louisville, she became a board member of the Belknap Neighborhood Association in 1994. She wanted to give back to her community and developed the Belknap Fall Festival. That first year, the festival consisted of 10 card tables. Over the course of 15 years, Linda developed the festival into one of the largest local festivals in the city of Louisville, attracting 15,000 visitors annually and raising money for Highlands Community Ministries. She expanded the festival into a two day event and ultimately to become Week in the Highlands, a community celebration filled with local artists, vendors, activities and activist groups. Most importantly, she wanted the week to bring together the neighborhood by giving the city of Louisville an opportunity to learn about the vast resources in the Belknap Highlands community. She continued to run the festival until 2009.
Her greatest passion was her sewing and quilting. For ten years she was an independent contractor and teacher at Moore's Sewing and Learning Center. In 2002, she joined the American Sewing Guild and later became their service chair in 2005. Her love of sewing was her greatest outlet to give back to the community. She founded Faith Quilters at St. Paul United Methodist Church, an organization which makes quilts for children suffering from terminal diseases and sudden tragedy. At the same time, she began to volunteer for Project Linus. She coordinated efforts with her church group, Moore's and Project Linus to donate thousands of quilts to children in need. She continued to make quilts and sew until the end of her life.
In 2010, the then owners of Moore's Sewing and Learning Center sold their business to Linda. In the three years she successfully owned the store, she brought national and international educators to the store, helped establish a program giving quilts and bedding materials to children at Sunrise Children Services and raised money for ovarian cancer research. She solely ran the business while fighting ovarian cancer two of the three years she owned the business. She received three "Outstanding Achievement Awards" from Janome America while she ran the store. Her business was her "second child" and she devoted her heart and soul into the store. She firmly believed in treating her customers like she would her own family and thought of them as family.
She is survived by her husband, Claude Ray "Chip" Bowles; son, Charles Ray Bowles of Louisville; her brother, Roger Swope of Poplar Grove, IL; sister, Janet Swope of Bloomington, IL; and mother Kathryn Swope of Gibson City, IL.
A visitation will be held on Monday, October 21, 2013 from 5-7 p.m. at Highlands Funeral Home and a memorial service will immediately follow the visitation from 7- 8:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made out to Project Linus, Be the Difference Foundation or Revolution Methodist Church.
Published in The Courier-Journal from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20, 2013