Bowen said he and his now late wife, Irene, prided themselves on the way they dealt with their students. They never paddled, he said, and they took time out to counsel and give guidance and advice. Some of his toughest students later turned out to be among his best friends, Bowen said.
“I’ve had the feeling there are not many people living who do not have some good points,” he said. “I don’t care how bad some of my students are, I could find the good.”
Dalton Utilities President and CEO Don Cope said if not for Bowen he wouldn’t be where he is today. As a high school student, Cope fell behind on the credits he needed to graduate, he said, and Bowen as principal tutored him on the side to help him catch up.
“He believed in people, he believed in me. He gave me a second chance,” Cope said. “I always loved Mr. Bowen because Mr. Bowen was steady, very thoughtful, a real true Christian man.”
He isn’t the only former student who said Bowen made an impact.
Local insurance agent Dan Combs described Bowen as “the ultimate gentleman” when Combs was at Dalton High School.
“His basic demeanor, and that he was such the ultimate gentleman, that it just caused you to just feel obligated to respect him and to follow his direction and advice,” Combs said.
Even today, he said, as a fellow Rotarian, he still can’t refer to the man as “Charlie.”
“He will always be ‘Mr. Bowen’ to me,” Combs said.
Mayor David Pennington said he wishes Dalton could have Bowen for 100 more years. Pennington described Bowen when he was a student at the high school as “the same towering figure he is now.”
“There are some people that lead by an overwhelming personality,” he explained, “... and then some people are just quiet leaders. ... When he speaks, everybody listens, and he’s not a loud, exciting type person, but he’s just a very reserved, quiet, dignified leader.”
So what has he done over the years to take care of himself?
Bowen said he tries to make himself eat, even when he isn’t especially hungry, and he tries to stay positive and not complain. He loves people and takes joy from his interactions with them.
Is he excited about turning 100?
Bowen smiles when asked the question.
“Not so much so. I might be excited about 101.”