By Gary Brock
On the morning of Nov. 8, 1976, I walk into the newsroom at the Xenia Daily Gazette. And it was on that day I had the great fortune to meet Bob Bowman.
At that time, the Daily Gazette offices were located in the large brick building on South Detroit Street. I remember being more than a little nervous that morning. It was my first real full-time job working for a daily newspaper.
Hired by then managing Editor Deloris Fisher, I had been working part time at the Dayton Daily News before getting the call from her when a position in her newsroom came open. I jumped at the opportunity.
It was that morning I met many people who would influence my career, but probably none more so than Bob.
I have been thinking of him a lot after I learned Saturday that he had passed away Thursday morning in Worthington.
Bob Bowman had worked at the Daily Gazette for years. He was there when I started and worked there when the Xenia tornado devastated the city April 3, 1974. As part of the coverage news team that keep the newspaper reporting on the tornado’s aftermath in the days that followed, Bob and the rest of the staff received the coveted Pulitzer Prize for news coverage.
It was well deserved.
As it so happened, the day I started at the Daily Gazette was also the day Bob was moving up from a staff writer to the “news desk” as one of the editors. I was taking over his old beat as police and city courts reporter.
So for the next few weeks, Bob showed this wet behind the ears 24-year-old the ropes of writing for a daily newspaper. And did I have a lot to learn. Lucky for me, Bob was a great teacher.
But don’t for a minute think that Bob’s lessons in beat reporting was based on some haughty journalism school professor’s textbook. No, Bob’s mentoring was real-world.
He took around on my new beat over a series of days. Bob always had a name for everything. The police station was “The Cop Shop,” for instance. He introduced me to the police officers, dispatchers, sergeants and lieutenants. Then at the Greene County Sheriff’s office, we met the deputies and dispatchers there. He always said to get to know these people. Talk to them every day, and above all, get their trust that you will report what you see and hear fairly and accurately.
He also introduced me to Police Chief Dan Aultman and Sheriff Russ Bradley. Bradley was, in fact, as big a character as Bob was. Maybe more so. Bradley was a great sheriff, but also a masterful politician. Bob taught me to be appreciative of the one, but cautious of the other.
After a week or so of working with me as he transitioned into his editorial desk job, he left me on my own. Over the next four years in the newsroom, I always enjoyed Bob’s stories about people in the community, events he had covered and people he had worked with. Bob was never shy about expressing his displeasure – always in private of course – with the qualifications or personalities of the people in the newsroom who had come and gone over the years.
Above all, he was quick to praise the work he saw by us reporters around him. When I had a problem with an article I was writing or a source I couldn’t reach, I would always go to him or Deloris Fisher for help. He always came up with a solution.
These were the days of typing articles on manual typewriters and gluing from glue pots the typed sheets together and dropping them into a “copy box” at the editors desk. The articles would then be hand proofed and corrected by Bob or the ME or Randy then rolled up into a tube that was then dropped down a pneumatic shoot to a typesetter on the first floor for the daily edition that day!
Later, we transitioned to writing on IBM Selectrics, then “VDT” screens and finally on-screen layout. Bob saw this whole transition.
Bob was always great to work with in the newsroom. Steady and consistent, I don’t think I ever remember him angry or upset beyond what people normally do in any newsroom. When Randy Blackaby left as editor in 1987, Bob was the first to congratulate me when I was promoted to the job. “That’s the right choice,” I remember him saying to me, and his confidence always made me feel better as I stepped into the new role.
He loved the community, and always enjoyed the many “characters” he found as he wrote articles and covered events, and gave some of them his own personal nicknames. One couple he would frequently see walking the streets downtown he called “Rembrandt and His Mate.” I have no idea why. But Bob knew. Everything has a reason for him.
After more than 20 years at the XDG, Bob retired in the 1990s. Living in Clinton County, he continued on writing columns and covering sports for the Wilmington News Journal. When I would visit that newspaper on occasion I would run into him and we would reminisce fondly about our days together in Xenia.
The last few years he lived at Worthington Christian Village retirement home.
According to his obituary, Bob had served in the Army in both World War II and Korea, and had graduated from the University of Cincinnati. Bob loved Big Band music, Ohio State Football, high school basketball, the news, politics, being a Mason, history and bacon. He had a large number of jokes that he used to entertain his caregivers at the nursing facility.
What I admired about Bob is that his entire life he did what he loved best – writing stories about people and sharing their lives with his readers. It was his emphasis on the “people stories” that I always admired, and took to heart from him.
Everyone who worked with Bob loved him. He was a legend. And what’s more, everyone in the newsroom wanted to emulate his attitude and drive and live up to his expectations of us young, fledgling reporters.
I know I didn’t always do that, but for Bob I always tried. Because nothing made us in the newsroom happier than to see him smile.
Gary Brock is editor of Rural Life Today and apologizes if over the years any of his recollections of dates and titles aren’t 100 percent accurate.