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Friends will miss couple killed in fire

December 15, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

WAYNESBORO, PA.

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

Joe P. Bowser of Greencastle, Pa., had an unusual way of replying when asked how he was.

His standard reply was, "Lovely."

That memory brought a smile to some of the attendees at Wednesday afternoon's funeral for Bowser, 58, and his wife of 34 years, Joan M. Bowser, 57.

The well-liked Greencastle couple known for their work in the community died Saturday morning along with their 6-year-old grandson, Elijah J. Virago of Catonsville, Md., when a fire swept through their home at 39 E. Franklin St. in Greencastle.

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Friends and family packed Waynesboro Bible Church for the double funeral.

The Rev. Darell Gentry said that the size of the congregation "demonstrated how well-loved and highly respected Joe, Joan and Eli were in the community." He added that his heart had been aching since he received a phone call Saturday morning telling him of the tragedy.

"Many wept as they heard the news," Gentry said.

"We're here to put our arms around you," he told the family. "God knows and understands and hears the cry of our hearts. To say they are going to be missed around here is an understatement."

At least once a week, he would receive a call from Joan, Gentry said, reporting something she had heard on the police scanner and requesting prayer for those involved.

The Bowsers were faithful in church attendance.

"Every Sunday, I could count on Joe and Joan to be the first ones to arrive," Gentry said. "You could set your watch by them. That disciplined me to be here an hour early. Joan would come in to my study and tell me what was going on in their lives, Eli's ballgames, books he was reading - I enjoyed that."

Joe Bowser recently had quoted Isaiah 55 concerning a church member's situation, and the verses were applicable to the loss of the couple, Gentry said.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."

"Why would God choose to end a life? We consider it a premature ending," Gentry said. "Everything God does is good. We may not understand it in this life. We might think, 'You could have stopped this. These were good people. They loved you. They served you.' It was Satan who caused evil to happen in Job's life. We live in a sin-cursed world. Bad things happen because of the curse. God doesn't cause it; He allows it. He will be glorified in the end through it all. I beg you not to become bitter at God."

The Rev. Robert Fitz said he was blessed to have been the Bowers' pastor for many years. He recalled the homemade ornaments Joan hung on the door of his study each Christmas. He read their favorite Scripture, the 23rd Psalm, which they had been helping Eli memorize.

"Their journey is now complete," he said. "They have gone on to be with the Lord Himself. The days ahead will be difficult as we adjust to the loss of our dear friends. But we know we must go on. There is much to do."

Waynesboro resident Betty Bakner, a member of the church, pointed to the pew the Bowsers usually sat in on Sunday mornings.

"Joe would've been in the Christmas cantata," scheduled for Christmas Eve, she said. He was the lead bass singer.

Joe Bowser was a technology education teaching assistant at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School and head security guard for the district.

He also served as president of the Greencastle Lions Club and Sunday school superintendent at the church.

Joan was employed as a crossing guard by the borough. She had taught Sunday school and helped with the summer Bible school program.

At least one of the Bowsers' pet cats survived the blaze. Will Massie of Greencastle said he saw the Bowsers' black cat, Meatie, while on his way to the funeral.

"It was in their backyard," he said. His son, Will, tried to catch the cat, but it ran off. They will continue to try to catch Meatie and will take care of him until the family decides what to do with him, he said.

Will, 11, added that Joan Bowser answered the Santa Claus letters from local children. Joe played Santa for Greencastle's annual Christmas parade.

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