Gordon Derwood “Sonny” Bowman II, 81, died peacefully at his home in Mt. Jackson, VA on Saturday, May 28th, surrounded by family and friends.
A successful businessman, philanthropist and one of the Shenandoah Valley’s most notable citizens, Mr. Bowman was born on July 27th, 1934 in Mt. Jackson, the only son of Gordon D. Bowman and Martha Elton Cadwallader Bowman. Raised in an apple growing family, he became President of Bowman Apple Products in December 1975, and served in that capacity until August 2009 when he became Chairman of the Board and ultimately retired in December 2011.
Mr. Bowman was a proud and loyal graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Throughout his life, he was active in fundraising efforts for his alma mater, receiving the distinguished service citation from the school’s Agriculture Alumni Association. During his college years, he played football for the Hokies, and was a member of Phi Beta Phi, the Phi Sigma Biological Society, the Horticulture Club, UT Prosim, the VT Athletic Association, the VT German Club, and the Corp of Cadets.
Upon graduation from Virginia Tech with a degree in Horticulture in 1956, he went into active service in the US Army from 1956-58 and served in the Reserves until 1964. Following an overseas deployment to France, he attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with an MBA in 1961, before joining his parents in operating the family business.
A lifelong orchardist, fruit processor and stalwart champion of the Virginia apple industry, Mr. Bowman served as a founding member of the Apple Processors Association, past Board member of the Processed Apple Institute and a member of the Virginia State Horticulture Society, Virginia Apple Growers Association, and the Dwarf Fruit Tree Association. He also served under President George W. Bush in 2006 as a member of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Advisory Committee.
Mr. Bowman was a past Chairman of the Board at Massanutten Military Academy, interim President and member of the Board of Trustees, most recently serving as Trustee Emeritus. He also served as a Director for the Shenandoah County Library Foundation and was a past member of the Shenandoah County School Board.
As a native of Shenandoah County, he focused his philanthropic efforts locally. He was a benefactor to numerous local organizations, including the Shenandoah County Free Clinic, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, the Boy Scouts, the 4-H and the Bowman-Shannon Cultural Arts Center. His firm conviction that quality higher education is critical to the future of young people residing in rural Virginia compelled him to create the Bowman Educational Scholarship Treasure (BEST), and to support the Virginia Tech Riva study abroad program in Switzerland.
Mr. Bowman is survived by his daughter, Lauren and her husband James G. Williams IV of Mt. Jackson, VA; son, Gordon D. “Todd” Bowman III and wife Charlotte, of Fort Mill SC; four treasured grandchildren, Tristan and Baylen Williams of Mt. Jackson, VA and Grayson and Genevieve Bowman of Fort Mill, SC; sister Peggy B. Zirkle of College Park, MD; and niece Pamela D. Zirkle of Annapolis, MD. He is predeceased by both parents and his sister, Patricia A. Jordan of Alamogordo, NM.
The family will receive friends from 5:00 to 9:00pm on Friday, June 3rd at the Dellinger Funeral Home in Mt. Jackson, VA. A memorial service will be held at Dellinger at 2:00pm on Saturday, June 4th, followed by a private graveside service at the Mt. Jackson Cemetery. A celebration of Mr. Bowman’s life will commence immediately following the service at The Yellow Barn in Shenandoah Caverns, VA.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to Blue Ridge Hospice, 333 West Cork St. #405, Winchester, VA 22601; the Shenandoah County Animal Shelter, 268 Landfill Rd., Edinburg, VA 22824; or the Mt. Jackson Fire and Rescue Squad, 6044 Main Street, Mt. Jackson, VA 22842.