■ BY SANDY JACOBS
Rosemary Fannie Bowler, 89, until recently a resident of Boca Grande, passed away on July 26, 2019 after a brief illness.
She is survived by her sister Eleanor Bowler Craveiro, brother-in-law Donald Craveiro, several nieces and nephews and many, many friends whom she considered family. She was predeceased by her sister Jane Trimble, her brother Arthur Bowler, Jr, and her nieces Marcia Spencer and Laurie Brunette.
Throughout her life as both student and teacher, Rosemary’s focus was on education. After obtaining her undergraduate degree at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, she earned a master’s degree in administration and curriculum supervision from Teachers College at Columbia University and a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of education at Boston College.
Rosemary shared her love of children and education as a teacher and principal at many schools, including Massachusetts schools in Belmont, Provincetown and Orleans. Later in her career, Rosemary shared her expertise as an educator even more broadly as the executive director of the International Dyslexia Association and managing editor of Annals of Dyslexia. She was executive editor of the Learning Disabilities Network’s semiannual publication, “Network Exchange.”
Based on her interest in bright children who have language learning problems, she and a colleague co-authored the book, “Learning to Learn,” winner of the Margot Merek Book Award in 1998. The book has sold over 40,000 copies and is widely used in teacher training programs.
As a consultant, Rosemary worked with schools and organizations in long-term strategic planning, board and staff development, in executive searches as well as leading board retreats. She served on numerous boards of directors of nonprofit agencies.
In April, 2001 the Learning Disabilities Network presented its Board Leadership Award to Dr. Bowler in recognition of her service in board development and planning. In 2004 she was selected by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, Florida to participate in the Building Better Board Initiative, where she received advanced consultant training in the area of nonprofit board governance and development. In 2011 she was awarded the Distinguished Alumna Award from Wilson College.
Her passport was filled with stamps from Africa, Asia, and almost every European country. In early 1950 she and several college friends traveled throughout Europe on bicycles, marking the start of her foreign experiences that continued until she was well into her eighties. She frequently visited her dear college friend, Dora Squatriti, who had moved to Italy after marrying an Italian. Some of Rosemary’s fondest memories were times spent in Rome and Umbria with the Squatritis, whom she considered her extended family.
She enjoyed her travels by almost every mode of transportation – bicycle, motorcycle, car, train, boat, bus, plane, rickshaw and tuk-tuk. As recently as two years ago, she enjoyed a trip through India and marveled at the country’s vibrancy. She often remarked that no matter where you go in the world, people are ultimately all the same and share the same dreams and aspirations.
While Rosemary lived in and traveled to many places, including the Northwest, where she formerly owned a cabin in Montana, none was more special to her than Boca Grande, which she discovered purely by accident when she won a free trip to go there.
Whether it was serendipity or just a coincidence of being at the right place at the right time, Rosemary loved the island and immediately bought a building lot on Lafitte Street, where, a few years later, she built her comfortable, welcoming home.
Rosemary immediately became an active member of the Community Center and Friends of Boca Grande. She was a loyal member of the Literature Forum, appearing as an audience member and presenter offering astute comments and insights into all things literary.
She co-founded Sleuths, a group for fans of mystery and detective stories. She loved the genre and led the group with first-rate analyses of the writing, characters and settings to discover what was “afoot.” Her droll sense of humor and academic research abilities provoked discussion and confirmed that the detective/mystery genre was a high art form. At the time of her death, she was writing a book on the history and development of the detective story.
She was an MVP in her personal book clubs, patiently waiting to hear what others had to say, assimilating their thoughts, and then coming up with the most brilliant comments. The Sunday Morning Breakfast Club evolved from Ro’s love of reading the NYT at the former Loons on a Limb restaurant. She was a beloved member of the Boca Grande Club book club, aka “The Talking Heads,” for more than 25 years.
Rosemary took charge of her future and, in 2017, she judged that the time was right for her to move on. She sold her home in Boca Grande and moved to Aston Gardens in Venice, where she continued to make new friends and join new book clubs. She maintained her ties to Boca Grande, and for as long as she could she drove there for book club meetings, Literature Forum and Sleuths, lunches with friends and more.
She was kind and gentle, as well as strong and outspoken when she saw injustice. She loved her friends and family, and they loved her. Many of her good friends came to visit her during her last weeks of life when she lived as a cherished guest at Marta Howell and Greg Walker’s home. Almost until the end, she loved to raise a glass for a few sips of white wine and enjoy some cheese and crackers with her visitors, especially with her long-standing friends, Jerri DeKriek, Bill and Linda Fleit, who – to quote some last words written by Rosemary before she died – “I have known since my days as principal 50 years ago and who have followed me from Massachusetts to Florida.” She spoke of her Boca Grande friend Pat Chapman, who “introduced me to the world of horse racing and the Kentucky Derby … and so much fun we shared.”
On her ever-present iPad she wrote, “Thanks to the many wonderful people I met and came to know in Boca Grande, my home for the past 20 years. I loved the Martin Walker events, the Sleuths, and the logic and moral dilemma classes I taught. Everything this magical community offered, I took part in.”
Rosemary continued: “Special love and thanks to Marta Howell, whom I saw as a family member and friend. I believe I served as her mentor as she made Boca Grande a memorable community as the Friends’ executive director. Special love and thanks to Joy Wyman, who has been by my side all these years – a person I saw as a daughter and friend who helped me throughout the years to make my life comfortable and special.”
Rosemary spent the last weeks of her life at the home of Marta Howell and Greg Walker, who gave her love, comfort and companionship beyond what anyone could be blessed to receive. They extended their hospitality and spare room to Jessica Fone, Rosemary’s great-niece, who was with Rosemary at their home for weeks at a time; they had an open-door policy for any of Rosemary’s visitors and welcomed them with a smile. Marta and Greg put what was best for Rosemary before their own needs. Friends like them come once in a lifetime.
The afternoon before Rosemary died, she was taken to Englewood Hospice, by her wishes, for her final hours. She died the next morning.
Memorial services are planned in Cape Cod this fall, and a Celebration of Life will be held in Boca Grande in January.
If desired, memorial gifts may be made in Rosemary’s memory to a charity of one’s choice. Condolences may be shared at dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/englewood-fl/rosemary-bowler-8790705.
This obituary is an abbreviated version of a longer article which will appear in the Beacon before the January 9th Celebration of Rosemary Bowler’s Life.