Richard Gwinn Bowe passed away peacefully on September 1. He was born June 22, 1938 in Chicago to William and Mary Gwinn Bowe. He is survived by his twin children, Alexandra Bowe DeRosa and Anson Bowe, his grandchildren Christopher and Charlotte DeRosa, his brother William, and his former spouse and mother of his children, Ann Fauble Mather. A later marriage to Greta Edwards ended in divorce.
After briefly attending Loyola University Chicago Law School, he joined the Illinois National Guard and worked in retail and as an office space real estate broker. He began his long career with the City of Chicago first working in the Human Relations Commission helping enforce the fair housing ordinance, and then in the Model Cities program dealing with police complaints. He last served as an assistant in the law department of its Board of Election Commissioners.
In retirement as in his working life, Richard was a voracious reader with broad interests in history, biography and Chicago.
1970 William John Bowe, Sr. – His Early Life & Law Practice, Recalled in The Families
Early Life and Schooling
In The Families, Mary Gwinn Bowe wrote about her husband’s early life:
William John (Patrick) Bowe was born in Chicago at 1024 West Superior Street on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1893. He died December 30, 1965, at the age of seventy-two. I never heard him use or be called by his extra middle name Patrick. His mother was Ellen Frances Canavan. His father was John Joseph Bowe. He was a bright child, rather destructive, had all the infant diseases, loved animals and sports, and was well-liked and very sociable.
At four he went to kindergarten at the Alfred Tennyson School, fell immediately in love with the teacher and refused to stay unless she held his hand. He continued at the Fulton Street school until the sixth grade, when he went to St. Ignatius Academy at 12th Street and Roosevelt Road, where he remained until 1912. He made no particular scholastic history during this period and all honors in that line went to the scholarly Gus.
At eight he had a fearful bout with typhoid fever. A Sister Dismus nursed him and this illness affected his sight. He wore glasses from that time on.
In high school he was President of the Debating Society and was active in athletics. He finished in 1910. He also continued his college work at the same time he attended the Loyola University Law School. He received has law degree from Loyola in 1915. He passed the bar examination the same summer and became a lawyer at the age of twenty-one.
Helping His Mother Sell Life Insurance
When he was very small his sister Anna, the baby, was left in charge of the more reliable Gus, and Bill accompanied his mother Ellen as she sold insurance to other Irish families for the New York Life Insurance Company. She was very good at it. She took “Willie” with her on her evening calls, since most of her prospects worked all day. Bill said he used to listen to the conversations and hold his breath during those moments before the person signed up. Many of the fathers were in heavy or even dangerous work and their familites frequently had occasion to collect on their insurance. So “Aunt Ella” did a great favor to many unfortunate families as she taught them the value of insurance from her own life experience. In this way she supported her own family during the years of her husband’s illnesses and until the boys began their law practice.
Learning to Earn His Way in the World: Selling Books
Bill’s first contact in doing business for himself was in selling Bible Symbols to newly arrived young Irish girls. This is how he recalled that and other early business endeavors:
The idea was, ‘The Foxes Have Their Holes; the Birds of the Air Their Nests, but the Son of God Hath Not Where to Lay His Head,’ with pictures between every two nouns. The purpose of the books was to acquaint children with the Bible when they could understand pictures, but couldn’t read. It was a handsome volume selling for $3, with $1.20 being the agent’s commission. I was pretty successful that summer and actually made $300. I think every purchaser got fair value because it was a beautiful book. I remember one domestic, just arrived from Ireland and unmarried. She was about twenty and difficult to sell as she was illiterate and was also unable to understand the pictures. But she did gather that it was a book for children. I was proud of selling her the book because I told her that instead of a hope chest of vanities and fineries, her first purchase for the chest was this great gift for her children.
A 12-Year-Old Office Boy Democrat Rises to Editor of a Republican Weekly
When I was 12 or so, I answered an ad for an office boy. The salary was $3 a week. Seventy-five boys were lined up before the office opened at 127 North Dearborn Street, across from City Hall. This was also the same building the Bowe & Bowe law offices were later in. Mr. O’Grady, publisher of the Chicago Weekly Republican, quickly selected me for the job since I was pretty tall and wore glasses. The office consisted of a reception room and two small private rooms. Into the reception room he had crowded five desks which he rented to friends for $10 a month with the privilege of putting their names on the door if they paid for the gold leaf.
O’Grady got out his rewrite sheet only at election times. He was mostly busy soliciting ads and shakedowns from the Republican candidates. So the job of editor was soon handed over to me. He was the business manager, getting from $10 to $25 for promoting or not disparaging the candidates of the day.
I told him that I was a Democrat and, although not old enough to vote, I was entirely in sympathy with William Jennings Bryan who was running against William Howard Taft. I told him that I felt that I could not honestly