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Chambersburg man patches together business

November 30, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. ? Nasby Bowen has made a business out of embroidering history.

He got his first embroidered patches as a child playing on neighborhood sports teams and has been collecting official patches for about 25 years. Eight years ago, Bowen decided to create his own commemorative and historic patches documenting people, places and things of local interest.

Working mostly from old photographs or pictures he has taken himself, the 66-year-old Chambersburg man had been designing embroidered patches marking significant anniversaries such as the Battle of Gettysburg; depicting landmarks such as President James Buchanan's birthplace in Mercersburg, Pa.; or depicting events such as the rescue of kidnap victim Peggy Ann Bradnick from "Mountain Man" killer William Hollenbaugh near Shade Gap, Pa., in 1966.

Fire halls, churches, banks, train depots and baseball Hall of Famer Nellie Fox, a native of St. Thomas, Pa., have provided other subjects for his embroidered histories.

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His designs then are put onto a computer by a friend, Jim Mitchell of Chambersburg, and manufactured by a company in North Carolina, Bowen said. Bowen's wife, Cathy, helps him with the informational cards that come with each patch, he said.

Bowen Historic Embroidered Patches has been putting out new designs annually since 2000, he said. For 2007, the three patches depict the 35th anniversary of Tropical Storm Agnes, which caused widespread flooding in the area; Siloam Dam near Chambersburg, which was removed about a year ago; and the old Chambersburg Hospital building.

"I could live to be 150 years old and never cover all the history in this area," said Bowen, who is a retired borough employee and former waterways patrolman with the Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission.

About 80 people order the complete set each year, along with a number of businesses, while others purchase patches of specific interest to them, Bowen said.

"I got a patch when I was a kid, about 8 or 10 years old, for the South End Panthers," Bowen said, referring to teams in various sports sponsored by one of the borough playgrounds. It was some years later before he began collecting in earnest.

"I really didn't get into it until I was with the Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission," Bowen said.

The commission began issuing patches each year depicting different wildlife, and he has all of them. He also has shoulder patches for game commissions from all 50 states and shoulder "flashes" for officers of the Canadian provinces.

Then there are patches from police departments, fire departments and other agencies. The collection takes up much of a small room in his home.

Bowen will display his commemorative patches in the Heritage Center on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during Chambersburg's IceFest.

While he has regular customers for patches, which cost $7.25, Bowen said he has made a lot of word-of-mouth sales.

"Sometimes, they'll call and say, 'Are you the patch man?'" he said.

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