Virginia B. Bowers

Virginia B. Bowers

Death 30 Dec 2007 (aged 84)
Burial Glenmont, Albany County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 23683860 · View Source
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Virginia B. Bowers, 84, died Sunday, December 30, 2007, at St. Peter's Hospital. Born in Hartford, Conn., she was the daughter of the late William and Caroline (Rehmer) Bowers. She was a graduate of Albany High School, Albany Business College and the College of St. Rose where she received her bachelor's and master's degrees. Miss Bowers also attended Russell Sage College and Siena College. In 1942, she joined the staff of the National Commercial Band and Trust Company where she worked in various clerk positions in the trust department. In 1969, Miss Bowers became the first woman in the city of Albany to be named vice president and trust officer at National Commercial Band and Trust Company. She retired in August 1983 to continue with college education. Miss Bowers was the author of "The Texture of a Neighborhood - Albany's South End 1880-1940" which was published in 1991. Her memberships included the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, the board of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and it's finance committee, the United Way of Northeastern NY, the Friends of the Schuyler Mansion, the Albany Institute of History and Art, the College of St. Rose Alumni Ass'n., NY State Museum at Albany, the Friends of New Netherlands Society, the South End Historical Society, the Albany County Historical Society, the Association of Municipal Historians of N.Y. In 1979, Miss Bowers received an award for business at the first annual Tribute to Women given by the Albany YWCA. Also in 1979 she received the Albany Business College Civic Service Award. In 1993, she was appointed historian for the city of Albany and in 1996 she was named Author of the Year by the Friends of the Albany Public Library. In 2005, Miss Bowers was nominated by Mayor Gerald Jennings to receive the 3rd Age Achievement Award in Arts and Culture sponsored by Senior Services of Albany. She was predeceased by her sister, Marion Cure. Survivors include nieces, Joan Bowers, Deborah Heinmiller, Pamela (Robert) Deitz; nephew, Michael Bowers; and 10 grandnieces and nephews. Funeral services will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit. Relatives and friends are invited and may also call at the Daniel Keenan Funeral Home, 490 Delaware Ave., Albany, Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. Interment will be held in the spring in Holy Spirit Lutheran Cemetery, Glenmont. In lieu of flowers, those who wish may send memorial contributions to the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit Memorial Fund, 57 Hurlbut St., Albany, NY 12209. (Virginia was born to Elizabeth Winfred Bowers [b.1890]and her husband, Harry
David French, in Hartford, CT., on May 18, 1923. She had an older sister,
Marian. Their mother died ten days after Virginia's birth, and the girls were
adopted by their uncles, the Bowers, and their wives. Marian went on to marry
Walter F. Cure. Harry David French married Mabel Rae Fenn and they had one son.
The three siblings stayed friendly throughout their lives.)

-by Paul Grondahl

At Virginia Bowers' funeral Thursday, a black robe she had worn in the choir hung from the back of a door behind the choristers.

It was a powerful symbol of the void the Rev. Raymond Strawn Jr. and his flock felt following the death of their congregation's heart and soul.

For the past six decades, Bowers formed the connective tissue among 125 members of the tidy, modest Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, tucked away on narrow Hurlbut Street behind the Spectrum 8 Theatres on Delaware Avenue in Albany.

"She did every job in this church, right down to planning out her own funeral," the pastor said in his homily. "We have suffered a great loss."

Bowers, the city historian and a leading volunteer in a half-dozen historical groups and civic organizations, died Sunday at 84.

She never roamed far from her South End roots. Since 1928, she had lived a block from the church on the ground floor of a classic Albany two-family on upper Second Avenue. Relatives resided upstairs.

Bowers' flat was a relic of sturdy antiques, end-table doilies and the height of '40s style. She used a rotary telephone and wrote on a manual typewriter. A microwave oven given by family members a few Christmases ago stayed in the box.

Ginny, as her friends called her, never married. By definition, she was a spinster.

But there was nothing pinched or diminished, none of Miss Havisham's sad wistfulness about her. Marital status never defined Bowers, although she did joke to friends that she carried a crush for Alexander Hamilton.

She was a book you could not judge by its cover: the prim skirts and sweaters, sensible flats, quavering treble voice, white hair cut into a timeless bob with Betty Boop curls.

"I only had two disagreements with Virginia and both times I was wrong," her pastor said.

There was grit and iron beneath the little old lady exterior. She had fought and won in the arena of banking, after all, in an era when it was a boys' club. She could tell, and enjoy, a risque joke. She was not averse to the pleasure of a cocktail. She saw every movie Johnny Depp made.

She had a high-pitched laugh, a girlish giggle that sounded as refreshing as a mountain stream cascading over boulders.

In her eulogy, Amy Deitz, a grandniece, remembered "Aunty Ginny" as "worldly" and "full of gusto." Her family marveled at Bowers' whitewater rafting trip at age 70 and couldn't keep up with the brisk walking pace she set when leading them on frequent cultural excursions to New York City.

Aunty Ginny introduced them as youngsters to the joys of Broadway shows and the wonder of $16 club sandwiches she bought them at Sardi's.

She taught them how to dance to show tunes, even the boys, and sang each one a customized "Happy Birthday" song over the phone on their special day.

On a bus trip with grandnephews to see a Yankees game, a drunken fan trying to be funny yelled "Fire" repeatedly. Aunty Ginny confronted the lout. Teeth clenched and fists raised, she told him: "Say that again and I'll punch your lights out."

You could take the girl out of the South End, but you couldn't take the South End out of Ginny. She was raised in a gritty, working-class neighborhood where ethnic enclaves bore nicknames such as Bean Quarter, Beehivers, Humpers and Sloaners. The area boasted a haughty motto: "The South End against the world!"
In 1991, Bowers published "The Texture of a Neighborhood: Albany's South End 1880-1940," a warm and intimate oral history and collage of anecdotes about the German, Jewish and Irish families with whom she grew up.

By then, Bowers had been retired for eight years from the National Commercial Bank and Trust Co. (now Key Bank), where she worked for 41 years. She became the first woman to achieve the title of vice president and trust officer.

"I always wanted to go to college and to become a history teacher, but I couldn't afford the tuition," she told me in a 1992 interview.

Bowers, a 1941 Albany High graduate and then an Albany Business College graduate, went back to school in retirement and earned a bachelor's in communications and a master's in political science, both from The College of Saint Rose.

She devoted countless hours to volunteer work with Friends of the Schuyler Mansion, the Friends of New Netherlands Society, South End Historical Society, Albany County Historical Society and more.

She was a sponge forever soaking up Albany lore. There are 718 streets in the city and she had been researching the story behind each one. She compiled a booklet of biographical sketches on every Albany mayor, back to the days of beavers and patroons.

She thrilled to the historical hunt. She had a knack for tracking down obscure scraps of arcane knowledge that a Californian who was a great-grandson of an Albany native wrote to the city historian inquiring about.

She threw herself into the unpaid position and taught amateur historians and genealogists how to conduct their own research as a volunteer in the local history room of the Albany Public Library.

All across Albany this week, from the Schuyler Mansion in the South End to the library's main branch uptown on Washington Avenue, black robes were hung -- metaphorically at least.

Who will fill the very large void in the life of the city left by the passing of Virginia Bowers?

During the decades that she raised her shimmering soprano during hymns with the choir of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, she was a reluctant giver of advice.

When asked, she offered only this: "Sing for as long as you are able."

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  • Created by: Edmund
  • Added: 1 Jan 2008
  • Find a Grave Memorial 23683860
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Virginia B. Bowers (18 May 1923–30 Dec 2007), Find a Grave Memorial no. 23683860, citing Holy Spirit Lutheran Cemetery, Glenmont, Albany County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Edmund (contributor 46794113) .