Obituary: Paul Bowen, 91


August 10, 2023

Paul Bowen

Paul Bowen was born in Spokane, Washington in 1932 and grew up living in Montana, Nebraska and California. He attended Palo Alto High School where he excelled at track as a top miler in northern California.

In the early 1950s he became a smoke jumper, traveling from his Montana base around the region and parachuting into sometimes-dangerous terrain to contain and combat wildfires.

He took part in a U.S. Geological Survey project in Lituya Bay in 1952 and took the opportunity to participate in the first ascent of Mt. LaPerouse.

Paul graduated from The University of California Berkeley with a degree in geology in 1955, and served in the U.S. Army in Korea in 1957-58. His geology career took him to Dillingham, the Yukon/Kuskokwim Delta, and the Brooks Range. Those skills would serve him well in Petersburg.

He married Neva Jacobsen in 1959 and together they moved to Petersburg in 1962. He gave up a career as a petroleum geologist to become a teacher at Petersburg High School. Having grown up in a military family, Paul moved around so much that he'd attended nineteen different high schools before graduating and knew what it was to struggle with one's education. He believed in the importance of not giving up on students, of giving them a second chance. "Mr. Bowen" earned lasting respect from many who attended his classes and is remembered as a kind and patient teacher, a friend and a mentor.

Named Alaska Teacher of the Year in 1977, he told the Associated Press that the search for oil may have brought him to Alaska, but he found that "exchanging information and sharing with local people about their environment was more valuable than finding oil."

At PHS he developed the school's first geology and surveying class. In 1983 his students also became part of the LeConte Glacier, or Xeitl Sit' – Thunderbird Glacier project, traveling to the site and measuring the movements of the glacier as it retreated year by year – well before climate change became an important global issue. The project has received recognition and praise from around Alaska and beyond.

Within a few years, fishing also became a passion. He began his trolling career in Tebenkof Bay and lower Chatham with his family on the F/V Wooden Shoe in 1967, continuing on with the Chinook, the Jackie Kaye and finally the Cisco. Paul loved and respected the outdoors. Retiring from teaching in 1996 several years after the death of Neva, he and his second wife Penny Ripple continued to enjoy being out on the water on the F/V Cisco.

Engaged and curious to the end, Paul passed away on August 1 surrounded by loving family and friends. He is survived by his daughters, Nevette (Peter) and Nina (Andrew); grandchildren, Isaiah and Braam; his sister, Joyce Poore; nephew Ken; and niece Cathy.

The family requests that any donations be made to the Petersburg Community Foundation.


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