On Christmas eve, we lost a dear friend, volunteer, colleague, and supporter, Gerri Bowers. We are deeply saddened by this loss, which will be felt by us at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center and across our community. She was involved in activities in the Village of East Davenport and was instrumental in preserving the legacy of Bix Beiderbecke.
Her dedication to preserving the past was demonstrated through her work with the Bix Memorial Jazz Society, the Bix Beiderbecke Museum and Archives, and the Davenport Public Library. Gerri volunteered with the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections for several years until 2020 when she needed to stay home with her husband, Kent. Even if she couldn’t attend an event, her presence was felt through the support she gave. One memorable instance of this was when she was unable to attend a genealogy night potluck event, but she still made a dish for sharing! It was a tasty salad! Starting in 2018, Gerri supported the first Quad Cities Archives Crawl by representing the Bix Museum and giving a detailed and interesting presentation on the life and works of Bix Beiderbecke. She gave another fascinating program on Bix the following year at the reimagined Quad Cities Archives Fair.
Geraldine “Gerri” Bowers was born February 15, 1939, in Centerville, Appanoose County, Iowa, to Daniel Wesper Hurt and Lucille Foster. She was one of eight children. Daniel and Lucille married on January 12, 1920, in Centerville, Iowa. Daniel passed away on December 1, 1942. In 1954, when Gerri was fifteen, Lucille remarried Ralph McKinley Boyer. He died on September 8, 1956.
According to the 1940 United States Federal Census, Gerri was living with her father, mother, paternal uncle, James, and her siblings, Joseph, Dorothy, James, Lester, Elmer, Howard, and Franklin. Her father was listed as a laborer with a birthplace of Missouri. Her mother’s birthplace is Iowa. Appanoose County is along the border of Iowa and Missouri, so it would make sense for individuals living in this region to meet and start a family.
The 1950 census documents the Hurt household as composed of Lucille, Howard, Franklin, and the eleven-year-old Gerri. Daniel passed away two years after the 1940 census. Lucille is listed as a maid at a hotel.
Gerri attended both Centerville and Davenport high schools. According to the Davenport City Directories from the mid-1950s, she lived with Joseph, her brother, and his wife, Edna.
According to a newspaper article “Davenport woman loves her ‘living history room'” by Alma Gaul, Gerri met Kent Bowers, her husband, when they were 14 and 16 years old in Lindsay Park. Kent Louis Bowers was born to Cecil O. “Bud” Bowers and Wilhemenia Schlapkohl in Davenport, Iowa, on August 29, 1936. They married on June 29, 1956, at Our Savior Luthern Church at 2524 Central Avenue in Bettendorf, Iowa. Gerri was 17 years old, and Kent was 19.
Gerri worked as a waitress at Walgreens Drug Co. located at 201 West 2nd Street. Her new husband, Kent, worked for the Harvey Construction Company of Bettendorf.
Before her marriage, Gerri lived at 921 West 3rd Street or True Apartments. Kent was residing at 2012 East 11th Street in the Village of East Davenport. Their first home together was at 1424 Sturdevant Street. According to the 1960 City Directory, they moved to 1125 1/2 West 8th Street, and Kent was listed as a carpenter for Harvey Construction.
As the couple began to have their own family, Gerri and Kent developed their own hobbies and interests. They both enjoyed participating in community events, antique collecting, and more. The article, “Civil War Buffs have a Ball,” boasts a picture of Gerri wearing a civil war period dress made of willow green antique satin and apricot sleeves as part of the Civil War Muster and Mercantile Exposition in the Village of East Davenport. Gerri was the chairman of the event which would be limited to 750 people!
The invitation to the ball is a copy of “an 1885 East Davenport Social Club card” or a dance card, that was used by Kent Bowers’ great-aunt, Sophie Schlapkohl who was born and raised on East 11th Street. The article mentions the other festivities planned along with more details about the ball.
In the two Quad City Times articles published on September 17, 2000, Gerri’s interest in family history is showcased by the insightful words of Alma Gaul. It shared that Gerri researched and collected not only her own family history but also her husband’s. They dedicated a room in their home to display their finds.
In 2006, Gerri and Kent celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They had three daughters: Stephanie, Melissa, and Stacey. The article lists the hobbies and activities they participated in.
Gerri will live in our memories, but she also has a lasting legacy as a historian with her contributions of Bix Beiderbecke Genealogy and BIX: The Davenport Album, co-written with Rich J. Johnson and Jim Arpy. Both these titles are available for use in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. If you would like to learn more about Gerri Bowers, Jonathan Turner of OurQuadCities.com wrote an article highlighting her life and all her work with preserving Bix Beiderbecke’s history.
In 2022, we lost other treasured volunteers and colleagues we would like to recognize. One that we will miss dearly is Leonard “Len” Stevens. Len volunteered with the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center for a number of years. He would work 2-3 desk shifts a month. He always checked to see how things were going with you and would make great recommendations on community events to attend. He also loved helping people research their family histories. We were fortunate enough to work with him as a volunteer and as a board member of the Scott County Genealogical Society. Len passed away on February 5 after a long battle with health issues. To read more about his life, please follow this link to his obituary: https://www.hmdfuneralhome.com/obituaries/len-stevens.
We also lost Miss Rochelle Murry and Mr. Marvin Lee. Please follow the links below to learn about the lives of these individuals.
We are truly grateful for the people we interact with as part of our work at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.
(posted by Kathryn)