Billy Jo Bowen
Billy Jo Bowen

Billy Jo Bowen

AFRH-W Resident Highlight – Billy Jo Bowen

By PK Knor | AFRH-W Resident

Billy Jo Bowen, from Atoka, Oklahoma, was born into a family of nine children (eventually 11), on June 16, 1934.  His childhood was initially marred by the death of his mother Thelma, when he was six years old. His father left the family and his oldest sister Bobbie Jean took charge. When the authorities found out about the situation, they tried to help by separating the children and placing Billy in an orphanage. (Bobbie Jean chose to go with him.) After four months he was taken in by his uncle and aunt, Tronto  and Hatti Brown, who were childless. Throughout his life he has remained in touch with all of his brothers and sisters.

Billy’s life after that could only go uphill, which it did. He did very well in church, sports and school. He traveled with a gospel group all around the country. He played baseball locally with his brothers (they covered the outfield) but only Billy was scouted by the St. Louis Browns (Baltimore Orioles) and he was called back for a second look (but he had already enlisted). He was valedictorian of his high school class and was offered a scholarship to Langston University. But Billy had a very good friend, a year older than him, who talked him into joining the U.S. Air Force.

Billy attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He then attended IBM computer school in Denver, Colorado (his favorite place). He enjoyed his work but because this was just the beginning of the computer age, he was always attending school. He was drafted into security computer service and then stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. This turned out to be a great move because he was introduced to his future wife Christine, who was also in the U.S. Air Force working in personnel.

After a year of dating, Christine had doubts that Billy would ever propose so she put in for a transfer to Germany. This woke Billy up and he went to the flight line the day she was leaving, pulled her out of line, and proposed! With the proposal in her heart Christine chose not to go to Germany and they were married two weeks later. But, they were soon separated again for eighteen months when Billy got a special secret assignment to Japan to learn how to decipher intercepted messages, for which he had to learn Japanese.  When he returned to the states he was assigned to Travis AFB, California. Christine left the U.S. Air Force and they finally settled down and started a family.

Billy remained in the U.S. Air Force in California and finally retired after 20 years. Because of his military training he immediately got a computer job with Marin County, California. He also later worked for the Navy in Alameda, California and the U.S. Postal Service in Richmond, California, where he finally retired from civilian life jobs in 1998.

Billy and Christine were married for 57 years and had four children, Keith (deceased), Karen, Kevin and Kia. They were all raised in California. When Billy retired in 1998, he and Christine moved to Las Vegas for the hot, dry climate for Christine’s health. They lived there for nine years until their children wooed them back to California with grandchildren and love. They thoroughly enjoyed being with their family. In 2012, before Christine’s health finally failed, Billy became an ordained minister.  Billy then thought about AFRH-W and in 2013 made the move.

Billy loves the fact that AFRH-W is so secure. He has had great medical care, likes the fishing lakes, the golf course, the food services and the entertainment!  He has been involved in volunteering, in a number of things, at the Home to include: escorting residents, the library, the thrift store, the golf course and the Resident Advisory Council. He has two achievements of which he is most proud at AFRH. He was able to get the President’s (at that time President Obama) photo placed in the federal dignitary gallery. He has also helped to organize, solicit speakers and be the Master of Ceremonies for the Black History Month Program. Thanks Billy.