March 13, 2002 - Salem Statesman Journal: Salem woman's death touches lives of many

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 03 March 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: March 13, 2002 - Salem Statesman Journal: Salem woman's death touches lives of many

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Salem woman's death touches lives of many

Read and comment on the Press Release from the Salem Statesman Journal on the death of PCV Elizabeth Bowers (shown in the photo above) in Zambia at:

Salem woman's death touches lives of many*

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Salem woman's death touches lives of many

Peace Corps worker Elizabeth Bowers dies after a bike crash in Zambia.

Statesman Journal
March 13

A bicycle helmet was all it would have taken to prevent the death of a Sprague High School valedictorian, cheerleader and karate black-belt holder.

A bicycle helmet was all it would have taken to further separate Elizabeth Bowers from the impoverished Zambian people she had pledged two years of her life to help.

Bowers, the 22-year-old daughter of Willamette University English professors Gerald and Linda Bowers, died March 6 in a South African hospital from injuries sustained in a bike crash in late February.

She did not wear the Peace Corps-issued bike helmet because it was another sign of the economic chasm between the haves and have-nots.

“She always was very sensitive to those around her,” said Berkeley Williamson, her best friend. “She was very good at reading people, very compassionate.”

Bowers had been teaching fish farming and agriculture in a northwestern province of Zambia for about three months as a Peace Corps volunteer when the crash cut short her dream.

On Feb. 25, Beth was biking down a hill when she hit something on the road and fell. A priest found her and rushed her to a local hospital. When doctors realized her head injury was serious, she was airlifted to South Africa. For a while there, it seemed as if she would recover, but four days after doctors operated, she took a turn for the worse and was put on life support.

Her father, who had rushed to Africa, kept vigil by her side.

Selfless spirit

Even in death, Bowers breathed life into the vision that drove her thousands of miles from Salem.

Twenty-two Africans who received her organs got a second chance.

Hundreds of people from around the world reached out to her grieving parents with letters, phone calls and e-mail about how Elizabeth had touched their lives.

Memorials services were held in Zambia, in Japan and at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. More will be held in Salem.

Linda Bowers said her daughter was driven by a desire to give back to the world because she had such a loving, privileged upbringing.

The family supported her wishes and spent two months last summer preparing to let her go.

“You don’t come between people and their dream, people and their destiny,” she said.

Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez said Bowers’ death was a tremendous loss for everyone.

Beth Bowers won over people in her village with her kindness and friendly, fun-loving nature, Vasquez said.

Kyanne Geiger, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, e-mailed the Bowers upon hearing of their loss.

“I was thoroughly touched and affected by her energy,” Geiger said. “I felt the warmth of every one of Beth’s smiles and contagious laughter. She was an amazing woman and always will be to so many people. I feel truly blessed by her.”

Linda Bowers said her daughter had a spiritual quality that set her apart.

“She was a child of light,” she said. “Everyone she touched was transformed by it.”

Beth grew up listening to and reading Shakespeare and poetry in a comfortably rustic house tucked in the woods just outside South Salem.

Easygoing, direct and self-assured, she loved adventure and was not afraid of the unknown.

She went fly-fishing with her dad, snowboarding with friends and attended every Shakespeare festival in Ashland with her mother since she was 10.

“She was a whole person and one of the most balanced people,” Linda said.

Beth graduated in 1997 from Sprague High, where she was a member of the school chorus and the dance team.

She was a pianist and later added skydiving and horseback riding to her life during college.

A life remembered

Bowers easily could have gone to an Ivy League college like her parents, but she picked Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., because of the Quaker school’s peace and global studies.

She wanted to enlarge her perspective, and she spent her junior year in Japan before returning to Earlham. She graduated in 2001 with a major in Japanese studies. She arrived in Zambia in early September.

Bowers is survived by her parents and a sister, Jennifer.

Williamson said her best friend threw herself into life and managed to live more during her 22 years than most people do in a lifetime. She called Beth brilliant, a natural athlete and the most sincere person she’s ever known.

“I will miss her laugh,” Williamson said. “She was always so happy. It was really infectious.”

Jeani Bragg, who was Beth’s supervisor and mentor for two summers, said people were drawn to her because she was friendly and thoughtful.

Beth worked as a resident assistant at Tokyo International University of America in Salem under Bragg, an intercultural specialist and TIUA’s associate director of student life.

“She was drawn to seeking out differences in the world and finding out what those differences and commonalities were,” Bragg said.

On March 2, the Saturday after the bike accident, the Bowers received a letter from Beth. She talked about how she was trying to navigate three cultures by teaching karate to Zambians in her village.

The family has always been strong spiritually, but for Linda, the letter was a reminder that her daughter’s wisdom came from another world.

“What a joy to guide such a soul.

More information

A celebration of life will be held at Willamette University, but no date has been set. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Beth’s name to a scholarship fund for Zambian girls and women. They also urge people to get their organ-donor cards and share their memories of their daughter on a Web site currently being built. For information about the service, scholarship and Web site, call Willamette University Chaplain’s Office at (503) 370-6212. For information about organ donations, call (800) 355-SHARE

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; US Peace Corps - PCVs; COS Zambia



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