Shirley Bowmaker, 78, medical technician

September 03, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Shirley R. Bowmaker, a retired medical technician and an advocate for the homeless, mentally ill and prison inmates, died of Parkinson's disease Tuesday at Atrium Village retirement community in Owings Mills.

The former Ten Hills resident was 78.

Shirley Ruth Storm was born in Baltimore and raised on Monroe Street. She was a 1944 graduate of the Samuel Ready School and studied piano in the preparatory department of the Peabody Conservatory.

She began her career in 1947 as a radiology technician at the old West Baltimore General Hospital, which later became Lutheran Hospital. She left the hospital after several years but returned in the 1960s and worked there until she retired in 1985.

While working and in retirement, Mrs. Bowmaker did volunteer work with mentally ill patients at Spring Grove State Hospital, inmates at the Jessup women's prison and in the kitchen at the Joseph Richey Hospice in downtown Baltimore.

"Her community service was exemplary. For instance, she'd go to Jessup and talk with the women inmates about keeping up their sense of self-worth and helping them rebuild their lives," said the Rev. Edward S. Warfield, assistant rector of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Catonsville.

She also was a volunteer coordinator for Health Care for the Homeless, a federally funded center in Baltimore that cares for 5,000 homeless annually.

"She worried about the many people that society doesn't care about. These are people who are on the edge. She devoted her life to that," said her husband of 54 years, Norman J. Bowmaker, a retired Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. vice president.

Mrs. Bowmaker traveled widely throughout Asia, visiting Thailand, India and Nepal. She also enjoyed touring Greece by land and sea.

She made numerous visits to Thailand between 1984 and 1992 when her daughter, Corinne T. Bowmaker, an Owings Mills nurse, was working in Cambodian refugee camps for the American Refugee Committee.

Mrs. Bowmaker worked extensively in the camps during her visits. In one monthlong stay, she created a lab manual to help medical technicians interpret lab results, Mr. Bowmaker said.

She also wrote poetry and was an accomplished pianist and artist who worked in oils and pastels.

Later in her life, Mrs. Bowmaker converted to Buddhism.

"She was a very unassuming, quiet and resilient person," Mr. Warfield said. He described her as a straightforward individual whose "candor always let you know where she stood, but she never harbored bitterness."

A Buddhist memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Loudon Park Funeral Home, 3629 Wilkens Ave.

Surviving in addition to her husband and daughter are a son, Gordon R. Bowmaker of Randallstown; a brother, Vernon Storm of Hamilton; and three grandchildren. Another daughter, Jan Bowmaker, died in 1998.

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