John Hartley Bowen
Captain John Hartley Bowen was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 27, 1919. After moving to the Northwest with his mother Blanche and older brother George, John attended University Heights Grade School and went on to graduate from Roosevelt High school. He attended the University of Washington until World War II when he joined the US Merchant Marines. During this time John married his first wife Dawn Frisbie, with whom he had a daughter Cappie and a son Charles.
John spent many summers of his youth living and working with his aunt and uncle at their goldmine on Chichagoff Island in south east Alaska. In 1932 at the age of 13 he went to sea for the first time on the mines supply ship which helped ignite a life long passion for the sea. By the age of 17 he had become the ships skipper. His passion for being at sea naturally led to a lifelong career on a variety of vessels, cable ships becoming his specialty. He started on the wooden cable ship the Basil O. Lenoir in 1943 as chief mate for seven years, becoming the Lenoir's Captain for the next 10 years. He then moved on to Captain the Albert J. Meyer, a cable ship he loved deeply. After years of unsuccessful attempts AT&T finally succeeded at recruiting John when they made him the Captain of the largest cable ship of its day, the 512 foot C.S. Long Lines (a ship that attained a record of historic accomplishments). John served as Captain of the C.S. Long Lines from 1969 to 1984, laying multiple Trans Atlantic and Trans Pacific telecommunications cables during this time.
Though highly skilled in his field of work he did not find joy in talking about his accomplishments. The memories and experiences that moved him most were of the unique characters he's known and the amazing array of friends he made throughout his extraordinary life's journey. Often those who knew John were fortunate to come to know these fond characters through the colorful stories he skillfully told.
The love of John's life, his second wife Betty Bowen, contributed passionately to Seattle's cultural and historic preservation. She was also known for her support and championing of local artists. After Betty's passing in 1977, donations from John and her many dear friends were instrumental in creating the Betty Bowen Award to honor and continue her efforts to provide financial support to the artists of the region. The Betty Bowen Award has been given yearly to local artists since 1978, and survives to this day.
In his retirement John continued to pursue his love of sailing in the Hawaiian Islands where he made his home for 20 years. While in Hawaii he made many good friends and enjoyed the company of family and loved ones. In 1998 John moved back to the Northwest making his home at Emerald Heights in Redmond to the delight of his family in Washington.
John is survived by his son Charles, daughter-in-law Karen, and grandson John. We are grateful for his love, the experiences he shared that enriched our lives, and for the example he set of a life well lived. He will be dearly missed.
Donations can be made in his honor to the Betty Bowen Prize Fund, in care of the Seattle Art Museum 1300 1st Ave Seattle, Washington 98101. A private family Memorial will be held in Mt. Vernon at a later date.
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