Ora “Clay” Bowden was born November 26t h 1932 in Mountain Grove, Missouri to Arthel Allen Bowden and Carrie Almira (Tooley) Bowden. He passed on to Heaven peacefully in his sleep in the early morning hours of January 2, 2021, 5 months almost to the day after his wife Martha of nearly 65 yrs. passed on July 29, 2020.
Clay’s family moved to Lenexa, Kansas when he was a teenager, he was one of 13 children, 11 sisters and 1 brother. They were a very close-knit family and even with such a large family, every holiday and most weekends there was always a house full of family and kids and grandkids at Grandma and Grandpa Bowden’s house. They were not only Parents to their children but helped raise a number of their grandkids at different times over the years as well. The age ranges of the grandkids covered decades and he had nephews and nieces that were closer to his age that he was very close to and were like bonus brothers and sisters some that were closer to his own daughters’ ages.
Clay and Martha Marie (Walsh) Bowden were married on Valentines Day, February 14th, 1956. They met while Martha was working at Woolworths in downtown Kansas City, Missouri with his sister Mary. They had 2 daughters, Eleanor Diane (Bowden) Daniels and Rebecca Louise (Bowden) vanRooyen. They moved to the Westside in KCMO after his father in law died suddenly of a massive heart attack in 1963 at the early age of 48. He taught his mother in law how to drive and they bought a home converted to a duplex in the West Plaza area of KCMO. When designing their custom built home, it was to include a place for Grandma Walsh. This speaks a lot to his character, as a young man with preschool children, he always welcomed and made sure his mother in law also had a home separate, but together so that she was not alone. He could fix and do about anything from carpentry to working on cars etc. and always was willing to not just take care of his own, but to help extended family and friends.
Over the years he worked at McCall’s gas station at 45th and Main, drove a Taxi part-time and eventually retired from AT&T in Merriam Kansas. After Martha retired, he was URGED to find something else to go do since Martha loved watching her grandkids and great grandkids. She loved taking them to the park, the zoo, science city and kid activities. He started delivering between Naomi’s Hallmark stores. This job with Hallmark turned out to be a fun adventure for him! He was very social and loved talking to people and everyone loved seeing him come in with his big smile and happy demeanor. He also became a Mason and Shriner and ran Bingo for the Abdallah Shriners for about 10 yrs. He was genuinely happy doing something he loved as he was very charismatic, and he liked people and they liked him.
Clay loved to hunt, and fish and he also enjoyed his years as a founding member of the Channel 18 Breakers CB Radio club which included going to dances and jamborees, pizza nights and on bowling teams. He used to go pheasant hunting in Western Kansas with his Dad, Uncles and brother and later deer and turkey hunting and fishing with Marion and Grandson Alan. They would head to Cassville, Missouri for opening day of Trout Season every year and he was also a member of a local Bass club where they fished tournaments. His prized Bass is mounted over his fireplace still.
Clay had a long, full and happy life surrounded by many family and friends. He was preceded in death by both of his parents, Arthel and Carrie Bowden, his 11 sisters, Hazel Hedges, Ilene Paul, Lorene Brown, Virginia Erb, Mary Eastland, Janice Seacreas, Ida Sayler, Linda Goold, Oma Ruth Clark, Nora Jane Collier, Leona Garlett, his Brother Robert Bowden, and his infant great granddaughter Martha Marie vanRooyen and many Brother in laws, sister in laws, Nieces, Nephews and Cousins that he loved.
He is survived by his daughters Eleanor Daniels of KCK and Rebecca vanRooyen of Overland Park KS and his Grandchildren, Staci Wood (Scott), Alan Daniels (Melissa), Ashley Dodgen, Martha vanRooyen and Rian vanRooyen. His great Grandchildren Blake Wood, Kaitlynn Daniels, Chloe McGuire, Sadie McGuire, Heidi McCabe, Kynzley Dodgen, Gianna Dodgen, Thomas Dodgen and Marley Jones.
Clay will be missed by many including his family, friends and neighbors. He loved his Shriners time doing Bingo and the parades with the small truckers. Not being able to enlist in the Military, he felt as if this was a way to serve and the Shriners Children’s hospital was something he was proud to be able to support. He was the last of the 13 children and will be SO missed by everyone.
His life was filled with spending time with his wife Martha, they will celebrate their 65th Wedding Anniversary together in Heaven on Valentine’s Day. He loved the big family gatherings and trips to Branson, Lake of the Ozarks, Colorado and beyond, vacations in their motorhome, and big campouts at his sisters at Roaring River and family campouts at Melvern Lake. The cruises that he ended up thoroughly enjoying, which he was hesitant about, but ended up doing two to the Caribbean and one to Alaska as well as his trip to Disneyworld and Daytona Beach. He has driven to Las Vegas and beyond on several occasions and liked road trips.
Everyone has special memories of their time spent with him. He was larger than life in so many ways with his engaging smile and easiness with people. He always worked hard and supported his family and was very social. He made sure his daughters had private music lessons and vacations ~ even if it was just to the lake, Branson, music competitions or Roaring River. He took his wife and daughters to Texas to see the 1969 Hemisphere in San Antonio. They drove all night to see the ocean in Galveston before driving home since he and none of us had ever seen the ocean before.
I’m sure there were Biscuits and Gravy in Heaven the morning of January 2nd and that the reunion and rejoicing and laughter is ringing loudly and happily just like all the Holidays and gatherings. Alzheimer’s stole him from us a little at a time, we are comforted in knowing that his memories of his life and family are now restored. We are Celebrating a Life well lived and surrounded by people who loved him. He will be sending us signs that he is still watching over us and taking care of us from Heaven.
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