BETHESDA, Md. -- Eleanor Hempstone Bowman, 81, pianist, singer, teacher and historian, died of sepsis and pulmonary complications on March 24, 2006, and was interred Monday at Arlington National Cemetery.
She was the wife of Col. John W.Bowman, USMC, Ret., son of Scott County Milling Company owner Lee Reed Bowman (dec.) and the late Verna Cox Bowman. She is to be buried next to her husband.
Mrs. Bowman was born in Shanghai and grew up in Washington, D.C., Newport, R.I., Coronado, Calif., and Annapolis. The daughter of Captain Smith Hempstone, U.S.N., and the former Elizabeth Noyes Thompson, she was born while her father was on duty in China with the U.S. Navy. When she was 4 years old, the family returned to Washington, where the Noyes family were part owners of the Washington Evening Star.
During her childhood, Mrs. Bowman grew up enjoying all the privileges of Washington society: tennis, horseback riding, debutante balls and family dinners at the Chevy Chase Club. But her real passion always remained opera and music. Gifted with a fine lyric soprano and a keen ear for languages, she was also a classically trained pianist. While attending Holton-Arms School and later Miss Porter's School of Farmington, Conn., from which she graduated in 1942, she dreamed of pursuing a career in opera. However, romance and the second World War changed her world and her plans dramatically.
While visiting her family, then stationed at the Naval Academy, she met a dark-haired, handsome midshipman named John Webster Bowman of Sikeston, Mo. Their courtship blossomed, and under the gathering clouds of 1941, they became engaged. Following their marriage, she accompanied him to California, and then returned to Sikeston for the birth of their first child, John Jr., and then on to her parent's home in Washington. At the conclusion of the war, and her husband's safe return, they moved to 5206 Wilson Lane in Bethesda, where they celebrated the birth of a daughter, Ellen, and another son, William.
While her husband pursued his career in the Marine Corps, Eleanor launched her own professional life as a music teacher and vocal coach. She instructed a whole generation of local pianists and singers, including the neighborhood mailman. During the family's three-year sojourn in Hawaii, she was able to expand her knowledge of foreign languages to include a grounding in Hawaiian and the music of the Pacific. She was also soprano soloist with the St. Andrew's Cathedral Choir, as well as fulfilling a lifelong dream, performing the lead in "Aida" with The Opera Guild of Honolulu.
After retiring from the Marine Corps, John Bowman became Chief Engineer for WMAL, the broadcast wing of the Evening Star media conglomerate, and Eleanor continued her choral and religious singing. For many years she soloed in Washington at Calvary Methodist Church and then at River Road Presbyterian Church. At Calvary, where the music director was the legendary Louis Potter, she became part of a quartet of well-known local singers: Frank Abeel, Howard Clayton and Doris Low, who performed together for many years. She also taught music to city school children, through a program organized by the Junior League. And she returned to higher education, attending George Washington University, where she received an Associate of Arts degree. On the side, she bred and raised several generations of very fertile AKC Chocolate Labradors. And during the 1970s and 80s, she was able to finish a long-term scholarly project, finalizing the family genealogies. The Hempstones, her father's side, had resided in Maryland since the 18th Century. And the Noyes, her mother's line, had moved from Maine to Washington just before the Civil War. Her great-grandfather, Crosby Stuart Noyes, a journalist, was an early editor of The Star.
Her husband Col. John Bowman, USMC Ret., succumbed to cancer in 1987. Although during the last several years of her life Mrs. Bowman was in declining health, she still was able to enjoy listening to opera and Hawaiian music, teaching Hawaiian to her nurses, indulging a guilty fondness for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and dictating her memoirs to her son, William.
She is survived by her three children, Lt. Col. John Bowman, USMC Ret. of McLean, Va., Ellen Bowman Perman of Bethesda and William Bowman of New Orleans. She is also survived by her sister, Mary Dora English of Del Ray Beach, Fla., and her brother, Smith Hempstone, Jr. of Bethesda; and by four grandchildren.
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Those wishing to express
for the life of Eleanor Bowman
are asked to make donations to
The Noyes Children's Library
Kensington, MD 20895
The Scholarship Fund, Miss Porter's School, 60 Main St.
Farmington, CT 06032