80th Birthday Party

Bill Bowe Remarks

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Bill Bowe

Editor’s Note: Thanks to my cousins Tony Bowe and Charley Bowe, and their wives Nancy Bowe and June Bowe, I got an unexpected sendoff into the decade of my 80s. For once viruses were not top of mind as family and a few long-standing friends made their way on June 22, 2022 to the non-surprise, surprise party at Wilmette Harbor. Drinks and dinner were served under the shadow of the nearby Bahai Temple, where the North Branch of the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan. No one seemed to have a bad time that I could see, and amid a few jokes at my expense, I even got the opportunity to thank family and friends for being such an important part of my life. It was a grand event, and one I was particularly happy to share with my wife Cathy Bowe, our sons Andy Bowe and Pat Bowe, and my late brother Richard Bowe‘s twins, Alex Bowe De Rosa and Anson Bowe.

Before the after-dinner program got started, guests had a chance to view a short slideshow and see themselves in pictures I had taken of them on my way to turning 80.  These pictures begin way back when my cousin Maggie and I first began sizing each other up (The Before Pictures).

After introducing the friends present to family members, my remarks concluded with some positive and negative aspects of my health at 80. On the plus side, I noted the continuing ability to mostly stand up straight, and the exceptional balance I exhibit either standing or sitting. On the downside of turning 80, I briefly commented on my weight, my diminishing olfactory sensors, and my short-term memory facility. The birthday celebration ended with my throwing my son Pat under the bus, and sharing my disappointment at the complete failure of my family and friends to keep a surprise birthday party a surprise.

Below you can see short videos of what people had to say at the event, including the Full 80th Birthday Program. You can see all the pictures from the party in the gallery here.

Complete Remarks of William J. Bowe at His 80th Birthday Party

Wilmette Harbor Club, 20 Harbor Drive, Wilmette, Illinois

June 22, 2022

I’d like to thank all of you for making the effort to join me tonight.  It’s heartwarming to be with so many family members and friends.  I don’t want to single out favorites, but Cathy, Andy and Pat, could you please give us a  wave? I’d like to publicly thank you for being the best part of my 80 years. My niece and nephew are also here. Alex DeRosa and Anson Bowe, please give us a wave also.

Most of us here tonight are related one way or another to my great-grandfather Anthony Canavan.  As many of you know, he and his wife Ann Hughes left County Mayo in Ireland in the late 1840s during the potato famine and spent nine weeks on a sailing ship before landing in Baltimore with three of their four children.  They had 13 children in all, and the entire family had a much harder life than ours.  And although they never knew they would in a strange way bring this particular family group together tonight, we still owe this pair a great debt of gratitude.

However, since they’re both long gone, I suggest instead of thanking them tonight, we should thank the Anthony Canavan who’s actually with us.  I’m talking about the namesake great- great-grandson of Anthony Canavan, Anthony Canavan Bowe. Tony Bowe thought up this whole event and generously made it happen.  He got help from Charley and June Bowe who arranged for this magnificent setting tonight.  Thank you all!

Tony deserves special thanks for another reason.  Tony was the one who first encouraged me to take the buildout of my genealogy website www.wbowe.com more seriously.  Then, once it was up and running, he jumped in and helped to create on it a portrait of his remarkable grandparents, my aunt and uncle, Gus and Julia Bowe.

Now the family here tonight pretty much know each other, so I’d like to make mention of my special friends here many of you might not know.

I’ll begin with my oldest friend, Larry Kurtzon who’s here with wife Karen.  Larry and I started school together in the Latin School kindergarten. Larry was always faster at some things than I was.  I didn’t quit picking my nose until the seventh grade. Also with us are my other Latin School friends, Steve Heineman, Carol Teuscher, Steve and Linda Kaplan, Ruth Knorring, Jay Edelston, here with Carla, and John Eshoo, who’s here with his wife Bernie. Then we have my former roommate at Camp Eastford in Connecticut the summer of 1953, Jim Kegel.  Jim is here with his wife Sandy.

I’ve known Jon Laing since I was 11 or 12.  My Elm Street apartment on Chicago’s Near North Side was near Jon’s home on Bellevue Place. One summer our mothers had us take typing lessons in his basement.  Their idea was that this would keep us off the streets and prevent us from bringing shame upon our families.  Their plan worked, if only for that summer.  Jon and I also went together through Yale College and graduate school at the University of Chicago.  When I got out of the Army not long after Jon, I was briefly in an investment club with him.  That’s where I met Jan Grayson and my late friend Nick Farina.

Nick’s window Jane Jedlicka is with us. I want to speak for a moment about Nick and Jane’s son.  Nicky is CEO of EeroQ, a new quantum computing company that recently moved its headquarters to Chicago.  Some of you may have read the front-page story in the Chicago Tribune last Saturday reporting that  EeroQ has joined the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Argonne National Laboratory as part of the Chicago Quantum Exchange in the effort to make the quantum computer a reality.  If the group can unlock the secrets of Dark Matter and Anti-Matter, and actually build a quantum computer, it will change the world.

I don’t want to brag, but understanding Dark Matter and Anti-Matter would only build on the more fundamental and important discovery yours truly made years ago.  Though similar to Dark Matter and Anti-Matter, I discovered “Doesn’t Matter.” It has no known effect on the world, but it’s a great way to relieve stress in your life.  Whenever I get stressed, I repeat my mantra, “It just doesn’t matter!  It just doesn’t matter!”  After 10 or 12 hours, it leaves me strangely relaxed I’m ready to lie down.

A law school classmate of mine at the University of Chicago, Lester Munson, is here with Susan Fox Gillis. Lester and I have been friends ever since we were tortured together in Professor Malcolm Sharp’s first year contracts class.  We were deathly afraid he might call on us in class and ask us about the grand old case of Hadley vs. Baxendale.  We didn’t understand a word Professor Sharp said.  Later, when we were studying contracts in the bar course for the bar exam, we discovered that Professor Sharp didn’t understand a word he said either.  Thanks to Lester’s later shift from law to sports writing with Sports Illustrated and ESPN, I’ve never had to follow sports.  Whenever I’m headed out for an evening  with the boys and need to sound like I know something about sports, I check with Lester for the latest down and dirty on the Blackhawks or Cubs.  They’ve always got at least one mess or tragedy on their hands.

Mike Deines from The Cliff Dwellers and his wife Sandy are here. Mike had a teaching career in the Chicago area and has been important person in keeping The Cliff Dwellers on an even keel over the years.  Walker Johnson and his son Ben are  also here from The Cliff Dwellers.  Walker and I all once served as the Club’s president.  It was mostly a fun job, except for the never-ending member complaints.  “My soup was cold, Mr. Bowe. What are you going to do about it?” Or, “Do you know I had to wait over a minute for the elevator? Bowe, you’ve really put the Club on a downhill slide!”

Now, on a more personal note, I’d like to share with you some confidential and private health information.  I’d appreciate it if none of this good and bad news leaves this room.  The good news is I’m generally in excellent health!  The curvature of my spine is still less than 45 degrees, and I’m only four inches shorter than when I graduated from high school.  Also, I’ve got damn good balance, and if you look very carefully at me when I’m standing or when I’m sitting, you’ll see that the drool is flowing in equal streams out of both sides of my mouth.

But, I don’t want to kid you.  Turning 80 is not easy.   The bad news is that I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last few years, but I have a way to go.  Still inside me today is a skinny man crying to get out.  Unfortunately, I have to feed him cookies to shut him up. I only started dieting when I was in my mid-50s after I learned that middle age spread wasn’t a cheese dip.  I first started dieting by taking out all the unhealthy food in my refrigerator.  It was absolutely delicious.  During the first two weeks of my diet, all I lost was 14 days. Then I tried a liquid diet.  After three drinks I didn’t give a hoot what I ate.  I’m ashamed that I also misled Cathy about my exercise program.  One time I left a pizza in the oven too long and when Cathy got home late that day, I told her I’d burned 1,200 calories.

I’ve got another more delicate health problem, too.  Cathy says I walk around sounding like a coffee maker at the end of its brewing cycle.  I never noticed it because I was kind of deaf and I don’t smell that well with my deviated septum, all my allergies, and chronic runny nose,.  I finally got clued in when inflation took off this year and I noticed Cathy was going through a case of Glade air freshener a week.  I hear better now since I started wearing hearing aids 24/7. I wear the hearing aids when I sleep, because I have sleep apnea and that way I can hear myself snoring at night.  I don’t worry any longer that I’ll wake up dead, but the big downside is that now I’m always sleepy.

Another health issue for me is my memory. It’s sort of complicated.  I often remember that I’ve  forgotten to remember something.  What I’m trying to say is my short-term memory is shot.  What I’m trying to say is my short-term memory is shot.  Take Juneteenth. This year I forgot what month it falls in.

Well, it think Pat believes I may have been shoveling you TMI.  That’s because I see him over  there doing this.  [Finger Circling his Head] Roughly translated, he’s saying, “This Dude does not abide. [Finger In Mouth Gesture] and  “Gag me with a spoon!  This is the worst party EVER!”  I’ll stop here, because I don’t want to get Pat angry.  Its embarrassing when he flies off the handle and starts crying, thrashing around on the floor and calling Mommy.

And then it gets worse because of course his mother’s never is able to calm him down until he gets a little bit tired.

I really appreciate everybody coming out.  It’s been great fun for me. The one regret I have about tonight is that you people just couldn’t keep a surprise.