HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Their legacy began on a sunny Saturday in May on the Studebaker farm near New Carlisle. The year was 1950. The bride was Cleon Studebaker, who had recently graduated from Purdue University and returned home to work at Wright Patterson in dietetics and management. Lester Bowers, the groom, had recently returned home as well. For him, the return followed graduation from the Ohio State University and, before that, serving in the Navy during World War II.
Each had grown up on farms in Bethel Township, and while they were familiar with each other as acquaintances since childhood, they didn’t truly get to know one another until they both returned home. Cleon, reared with priorities of giving of oneself, treating others with integrity, and possessing a strong work ethic–all lived out in the community with a practical faith—recognized the same values in Lester. Both believed in the value of a solid education in which students could prepare to work to the best of their ability in supporting themselves and giving back to others.
In the late 1950s, the Bowers bought a farm in the Miami East school district where they raised four children: Sid, Todd, Keith and Ann (McKenzie). A sense of pride in their community interwoven with making the most of educational opportunities along the way were among the priorities with their family. Today, the Bowers children recall that there was a good deal of hard work around the farm, but all was done with a good-natured disposition. Lester and Cleon led by example. There were ample opportunities for school students to visit their farm, including field trips to see the animals and even full-court basketball in the upstairs of the barn, where pick-up games would be played among students late into the evening.
Lester, whose degree was in animal science, worked full-time at Dinner Bell Foods as a buyer in addition to managing the family farms. He also served on the Miami East School Board for many years and was a trustee for Brukner Nature Center. Cleon devoted herself to being a full-time homemaker, but was also involved in community activities such as being a 4-H advisor, judge at the Miami County Fair, and a part-time consultant in the dietetics field. Both also filled various roles in their local church over the years.
In the year 2000, the Lester and Cleon Bowers Scholarship Fund was established by the Bowers’ children to honor their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Unsurprisingly, the basis of the scholarship—which is presented yearly to a college-bound student in their local school district—is to support students who demonstrate strength academically while at the same time displaying personal integrity and a commitment to community service.
The couple enjoyed more than 58 years of marriage before Lester’s passing in 2009. Today, those who know Cleon would agree that she still imbues the ideologies for which the scholarship stands. These priorities, paramount to this couple, continue to play a valuable role in the lives of those students who have been encouraged and supported through their legacy. Looking back to that sunny day in May 1950, that’s just the way Lester and Cleon would have wanted it.
Thanks to Tipp Foundation Board Member Bruce McKenzie for capturing the charming story of Lester and Cleon.
The Tipp City Foundation is a member fund of The Troy Foundation. If you would like information about how to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact Heather Bailey at (937) 528-2482.
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