Mary Alice Bowlin, 90, of Mesilla passed away Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 after a brief illness. Mary Alice was born Aug. 23, 1922 on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Fort Defiance, Ariz. to George and Domatilla (nee O'Connell) Showalter. Her mother worked for the Indian Health Service as a nurse at the Fort Defiance hospital and her father worked for the Indian Service building a number of the buildings in Fort Defiance. She grew up in Fort Defiance, living at the hospital, being near extended French/Indian family from her mother's maternal side (Paquette). Her great uncle, Peter Paquette was superintendent of the Navajo Reservation, Fort Defiance Agency, and her great aunt Mary Paquette Barnes taught at the Fort Defiance school. Other members of the family worked for the Indian Service and in trading with the Navajos. Her family moved to Gallup during her high school years, and she attended high school at St. Vincent's Academy in Albuquerque. She attended college at University of California at Berkeley, later attending Sawyer's business school in Southern California. Warner Brothers was hiring while filming a Western on location in Gallup, and her mother urged her to try for a job with them. Mary was hired to disburse the payroll daily for the Navajo extras, where her ability to speak Navajo came in handy. From that experience, she made connections to a job at Warner Brothers in Hollywood, where she worked as a secretary in the writer's pool. She progressed to the rotating secretary pool and at one point was an undersecretary for Jack Warner. She remembered being able to visit the film sets during their lunch breaks. World War II was in full swing, Mary used her experience to work as a technical typist at Douglas Aircraft factory in California. After World War II, she returned to Gallup to work as a bookkeeper at Harshman Auto Agency. She married Claude Bowlin Jr. in Gallup in 1946 at the Congregational Church with the reception at the El Rancho. Claude Jr.'s family were also Indian traders. She and Claude Jr. operated several Bowlin roadside trading posts and stores; the Old Crater near Bluewater, N.M. and later, the Old West Trading Post, west of Las Cruces. At the New York World's Fair 1964-65, through the Bowlin family business, they operated the gift shop at the New Mexico Pavilion at the fair. In 1966 they bought the Mesilla Book Center from Betty Bowen and Mary's family continues to operate the store to this day. Her favorite place to vacation was Catalina Island, which she visited yearly for more than 50 years. Mary was preceded in death by her parents, a foster son and cousin, Cameron Joseph Devine who served in Vietnam, her husband Claude, and her brother in law Frank McClure. She is survived by her daughter Cheryll Blevins and her husband Paul of Las Cruces, and grandchildren Irene and William Patrick; sister-in-law Hope Bowlin McClure of Grants and her children Pati and Wayne; brother in law Mike Bowlin and his wife Monica of Albuquerque and their children Valkyrie , Kimberly and Emily; foster son John Sandoval and his children Cameron, Robert, and Camille. Mary enjoyed connecting customers with good books and continued to greet customers in the bookstore until just a few months ago. Mary would have wanted to thank her wonderful employees and customers over the years and in particular would have wanted to give thanks to her kind and thoughtful neighbors and friends in Mesilla. The family would like to thank Home Instead, The Heritage, and Mesilla Valley Hospice La Posada for help with Mary's recent care. There will be a graveside service at Masonic Cemetery at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 at the intersection of Brown Road and Fort Sumner Way. La Paz Graham Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. To sign the guest book log on to www.lapaz-grahams.com.
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Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on Nov. 27, 2012