Obituaries for January 27, 2012

By Observer Upload January 27, 2012 08:58 pm



Retha K. Bowman

La Grande



Retha K. Bowman, 93, of La Grande, died Jan. 21. A memorial service will begin at 1 p.m. Feb. 4 at First Christian Church in La Grande. Fellowship and a meal will follow. A viewing for family and friends will run from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 3 at Loveland Funeral Chapel.

Retha was born in Enterprise on Dec. 17, 1918, to Burdell Kail and Mary (Broughton) Kail. At age 5, Retha’s family moved to the Grande Ronde Valley where her mother taught school in the Ladd Canyon school house. 

Retha began her schooling with her mother as her teacher. After three years, they moved to Perry where again her mother was her teacher. When she was 12, the family moved to acreage on H Street in La Grande. She attended La Grande High School and graduated at age 16. She earned her normal school degree and teacher’s certificate at Eastern Oregon College and went out to teach at age 18.

Retha’s first teaching position was in the Wolf Creek school house in North Powder Valley where she met Forrest Bowman who lived close by and ranched with his father. After courting, they married on June 22, 1940.

Retha’s teaching career led her back to La Grande where she, Forrest and their three children moved to the farm. With her own children all in school, she accepted a position teaching in the one-room school house in Ladd Canyon. This was the same school where her mother taught
years earlier and where she attended grades one through three.

From Ladd Canyon, Retha taught a number of years in Union and was invited to teach in the La Grande School District. She was given grades three and four in the same three-room schoolhouse her mother had taught in, and was principal of, years earlier at Island City.

While teaching, she received a master’s degree in education plus 45 credit hours in administration. She became the principal of the Island City School, and was a director for the Union County ESD for four years.

Besides being a strong advocate of education, she took classes and became a Master Gardener. She loved working in her large flower gardens and her vegetable garden. She found great joy mowing lawn on her green John Deere riding lawn mower.

When their children were young, Retha and Forrest built a cabin at Anthony Lakes where they spent many weekends fishing. She loved the tug of a rainbow trout on her line at Grande Ronde Lake.

After the death of Forrest in 1997, Retha continued going to the cabin with her son Russ and his family.

Retha and Forrest had three children, Tom Bowman of a Grande, Terry Thomas of Camano Island, Wash., and Russ Bowman of Sunny Side, Wash. She has seven grandchildren and nine

Retha was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Forrest; and her only sibling, Reba.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to any charity.


The Observer publishes free obituaries as a community service. Obituaries are edited to fit news guidelines. Photos are encouraged. Paid space is available for families who would like to include more information. Daniels-Knopp Funeral, Cremation & Life Celebration Center posts unedited obituaries at, and Loveland Funeral Chapel & Crematory posts obituaries at