Jessie Bowman, WWII Veteran, member of the “Greatest Generation,” longtime barber and beloved father, passes away

GRANITE FALLS, NC (December 16, 2020) — Jessie Odell Bowman was born on December 28th, 1919 to Cordia Brown Bowman and Earl H Bowman in the Bethlehem community in Alexander County. Jessie was born to deaf parents and had to work at an early age to help with the financial burden of raising four children during the depression. Jessie earned $30.00 per month in the C.C. Camp where he land mapped 4 counties. Jessie served for 2 years and sent most of his money to his family.

In 1940, Jessie met Sadie Jane Clark on the railroad tracks in Sawmills and they were married 5 months later on February 22, 1941. They eventually bought a home on Dudley Ave in Granite Falls for $800. On December 5th, 1943, their first child, Nancy Sandra Bowman was born.

Jessie was drafted into the Army serving with the 87th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II. His main job was a mortar operator and marched in front of the troops to clear the way. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge; walked across France; and he was in Plauen Germany when the war ended. In 2013, the Ambassador of France presented Jessie the French Medal of Honor, in Raleigh, NC. The Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, attended the ceremony and spoke to the honorees and thanked them for their service. That was one of Jessie’s most cherished medals.

Jessie decided to become a barber and attended Barber College in Winston Salem in 1945 and worked for Astor Peeler’s Barber Shop. In 1948, they decided to move to Bluefield, West Virginia to work as a foreman of a strip mine for Blythe Brothers Construction Co. While living in West Virginia, Sadie became pregnant with their second child, Deborah Anne Bowman, born on February 28th, 1950. They stayed in West Virginia until 1952.

When the family moved back to Granite Falls, Jessie bought and operated Central Barber Shop, where he worked full time until he retired from barbering. The barber shop was a busy, thriving business, where they offered a large walk-in type shower for 25 cents. In 1952, the price of a hair cut was 50 cents for children under 12 and 75 cents for older children and adults. Shaves were 50 cents and about 10% of the older men wanted shaves because they did not have hot water in their homes. When haircuts reached $1.25, Jessie had to buy a new cash register as the old register would only ring up $1.00.

Dale and Lisa Clark joined the Bowman family in 1971, as a result of Sadie’s brother passing away. The courts were going to place the two young children in an orphanage and Sadie could not stand the thought of this happening. They both lived with the Bowman family until they graduated from high school. Lisa was legally adopted and became the youngest Bowman daughter.

In 1970, Reverend Claude Dick, at the First Baptist Church in Granite Falls, urged Jessie to start a deaf ministry. Jessie accepted the calling and worked part-time at the barber shop until he sold it in 1986. Jessie resigned as the Minister of the Deaf at the First Baptist Church and began pursuing getting the deaf their own church. In 1986, he founded and organized the First Baptist Church for Deaf, a mission church sponsored by Winklers Grove Baptist Church and Mountain View Baptist Church. In 1989, with much monetary support and free labor from many different organizations, churches and individuals, Jessie’s dream became a reality and his deaf congregation had their own church located on Airport Road in Hickory. This was the first deaf church in North Carolina and soon the church membership grew to over 100.

Jessie traveled to Sorocaba Brazil in 1990, and started a much needed deaf ministry, as well as helping to build a chapel at an orphanage. Then in 1992, Jessie returned to Sorocaba for a revival, preaching at many different churches. Because of his unfailing love for his fellow human beings and all his charitable acts of kindness, he touched so many deaf and hearing lives, Jessie was nominated and won the 1993 Jefferson Award. This award is given by WBTV in Charlotte for outstanding community service.

Jessie retired from the ministry several times; God was not done with him because there was still work to be done. He served as interim pastor to the First Baptist in Morganton and several times at the deaf church in Hickory.

Without the support and love from his wife, Sadie, Jessie stated that he could never have had the success in business and especially in the deaf ministry. In 1995, during open heart surgery, Sadie had a stroke and was paralyzed and unable to speak. Sadie remained at home until her death in January, 2007 and they were married for 66 years.

Nancy Bowman, Deborah & Art Dlugos and Lisa & Mark Lowman all reside in Grace Chapel. Jessie has two grandchildren, Chastan Dlugos Shields & Willie Matthew Starnes along with four great grandchildren, Carson, Baileigh, Grace Shields and Willie Gabriel Starnes.

Jessie remained in his home until he passed with his daughters by his side, Sunday December 13th, 2020. Oh what a great man he was!

We will be receiving family and friends Saturday, December 19th, 1-3pm at the First Baptist Church Granite Falls Life Center. His funeral service will be Sunday at 1:00pm at the First Baptist Church.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Caldwell County Hospice and Palliative Care, 902 Kirkwood St., Lenoir, NC 28645, First Baptist Church, Granite Falls, 12 Crestview St., Granite Falls, NC and or Campaign for the National Museum of the U.S. Army, P.O. Box 96281, Washington, DC, 20090-6281.

Bass-Smith Funeral Home is serving the family.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Jessie Odell Bowman please visit the Bass-Smith Funeral Home Tribute Store.

To visit Jessie’s obituary on the Bass-Smith Funeral Home website click here.

Obituary written by the family.

Jessie Bowman smiling in the above photo taken during World War II. (click on photo to view a larger image)

Jessie Bowman’s 100th Birthday – December 28th, 2019. In photo: Deborah Dlugos, Nancy Bowman, Jessie Bowman, Chastan Shields and Lisa Lowman.
Jessie Bowman’s Barbershop at the Club Cola Museum in Granite Falls.
Jessie Bowman preparing to take off in an open cockpit biplane on November 19, 2019 with pilot Wesley Parlier. Jessie was one month away from his 100th birthday. Both Jessie and Wesley were so excited to take to the air on this wonderful day.
Jessie Bowman was awarded France’s highest decoration. The Legion of Honour is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits, established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and retained by all later French governments and régimes.