John Hartley Bowen
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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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Published in The Seattle Times from Jul. 27 to Jul. 28, 2013.
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5 entries
July 21, 2020
Time flies. Until I received this today in my email mailbox, I did not realize that John's passing has been seven years from planet earth. He and my Aunt Betty made for such a gorgeous couple and with him away at sea so much it seemed like they had years of extra honeymoons in reuniting here and there. It's comforting to know that he was put to rest near his beloved Betty on Pleasant Ridge near La Conner, Washington. Christopher Barnes
August 26, 2013
I first met John in the summer of 1956 when my Aunt Betty brought him up to our beach cabin near Deception Pass to meet our family. Needless to say, my parents, maternal grandparents, and I all liked him very much. We were later pleased to learn that John and Betty had married in San Francisco in November of that same year. Uncle John was in and out of my life as his career took him out to sea more often than he was at home. However, it was fun to see him on occasional holidays during my teenage years. When I visited Japan and Hawaii in 1968 and 1970 in order to meet my army officer husband for R&R, I was thrilled to also be able to see my Uncle John. After my aunt died in 1977, Uncle John and I stayed in touch and he and his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson (Charles, Karen and John) would often come together for holiday gatherings with me and mine. In his elder years, my family and I were privileged to have him attend my daughter's first baby's baptism followed by, a few years later, my own son's wedding. Uncle John was a dear classy man and I was proud to have him as my uncle by marriage. After his death, I was both surprised and happy to learn that he had chosen to be at rest next to my aunt in the Pleasant Ridge Cemetery near La Conner. He lived a unique and worldly life. Christopher Barnes, niece of Betty Cornelius Bowen
August 7, 2013
I have fond memories of John and his stories. One of the things he said about himself on the boat that impressed me. " I just loved to solve problems at sea". Sorry there is no public memorial service, I know at least two of us here would come to Mount Vernon.

Don Taves friend at Emerald Heights
August 1, 2013
I grew up in Pelican, a little tiny fishing village, on Chichagoff Island from the time I was 2 1/2 until I was about 9 years old. My dad ran the engine room for the cold storage. I couldn't believe this when I ran across it. I am sorry to bother you at this sad time but if you had any stories to share I would so love to hear from you. We visited one of the old abandoned gold mines when I was a child out in my dad's boat, and we could tell it was huge. My mom found some kind of order sheet they had made out to Sears, or something, ordering like hundred and thousands of underwear and socks. She was astounded. My address is: Jackie Steele, 14715 - 107th Ave. N.E., Bothell, WA 98011 My home phone is (425) 488 - 6228; My work phone is: (425) 455 - 9025. Our family has very fond memories of growing up there.
July 28, 2013
Fred Jerrell
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