In memory of Carol

Retired Yukon plumber, Vietnam veteran Jerry Bowers honors wife killed in OKC bombing

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Jerry Bowers places flowers on Carol’s memorial chair on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Jerry had met Carol in 1962 while working at a blueprint shop near the federal building downtown. (Photo provided)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Jerry Bowers remembers April 19, 1995 as a beautiful spring morning – at least it was before 9:02 a.m.

As usual, his wife Carol went to work at the Social Security Administration office in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Carol, 53, was a supervisor there.

Jerry went to look at a plumbing job at a building that then housed United Pharmacy in downtown Yukon. Jerry had opened B&B Plumbing in fall 1981, growing the business by word of mouth.

Returning to his truck, Jerry heard a news flash on the radio that there had been an explosion shortly after 9 a.m. at the Murrah Building.

“That didn’t register because I didn’t call it the Murrah Building; it was the ‘federal building’ to me,” the U.S. Army veteran related. “They started building it while I was over in Vietnam.”

When Jerry went to Locke Supply to pick up some plumbing parts, he heard the news was grim – it was the federal building that had blown up.

So, he headed over to a friend’s Yukon print shop where he saw what was happening on TV.

“I ran, got in my truck and drove downtown,” Jerry recalled. “When I got on I-40, I saw all these unmarked (police) cars coming in from surrounding towns with their lights on.”

Yukon’s Jerry Bowers holds a photo of his wife Carol, who was among 168 people killed in the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Carol was supervisor at the Social Security Administration office inside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Next to Jerry is a “Quilt of Valor” made by his niece to recognize the Vietnam veteran’s service in the U.S. Army. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

Arriving in downtown Oklahoma City, Jerry found a place to park his truck on N 3rd Street near the Oklahoma Publishing Company (OPUBCO) Building and started walking. He had tried to make a call but there was no cellphone service.

“I went over to 4th Street by the YWCA; that’s when I got the ‘big picture’,” he added. “I said, ‘What the hell happened?’ It looked like Vietnam.

“It was just devastation.”

Jerry joined a friend — whose mother worked at the credit union inside the Murrah Building — among a growing number of people converging near the scene.

First responders started directing the crowd to move back fearing another bomb would detonate. They ended up over at St. Anthony’s Hospital.

His friend’s mother escaped the building — but Jerry stayed with a large group of people waiting to hear news about their loved ones.

Carol and Jerry Bowers’ son Joe, daughter-in-law Rachell and granddaughters C.J. and Emery visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial honoring the 168 lives lost in the April 1995 bombing. The name “Carol Louse Bowers” is inscribed on one of the 168 chairs there. (Photo provided)

‘LAST THING I EVER EXPECTED’

It took until about 4 p.m. that afternoon for Jerry to learn his wife had died in the explosion.

“I had been down there all day,” Jerry said.

“Carol’s friend – who had worked with her but was retired – she found me at the hospital and said she didn’t make it.”

It took three days to recover Carol’s body amid the destruction.

Family and close friends stayed with Jerry at his home in Yukon for many days to help during the mourning process after his wife’s tragic passing.

Yukon’s Carol and Jerry Bowers in a March 1994 photo. They were married in 1963 and had one son, Joe, a 1988 Yukon High School graduate. (Photo provided)

“It was a ‘tough go’, because it was the last thing I ever expected to happen in Oklahoma City,” Jerry shared. “We had a nice service for her. Yanda & Son Funeral Home handled it all exceptionally well. They did a great job.”

Jerry cherishes with fondness the many years he’s been in Yukon. He and Carol were living in Warr Acres in the 1970s when they started looking for a new house.

“Yukon was quite a bit smaller then,” Jerry said. “Carol worked in Oklahoma City as the supervisor at Social Security. I worked several different jobs after going to school and serving in Vietnam.”

Jerry and Carol ended up building a new house in 1976 in the Parkland Addition. Jerry still lives there today.

“Yukon is a great town – not so little anymore,” he said. “There’s really good people in Yukon.

“In today’s times, I feel like Yukon’s a very safe place to be. Because of Yukon’s size and the way the people are, I think it’s a great place to live!”

Jerry’s dedicated companion is Gaylene Husted, who lived right up the street in the Parkland neighborhood. Gaylene’s children went to school with Jerry’s son, and they have been together 24 years now.

JUST CALL HIM JERRY

An Oklahoma City native, Leonard Gerald Bowers graduated from Classen High School before enlisting in the U.S. Army.

“I’ve always been called Jerry,” Jerry noted.

Jerry Bowers, a member of the 509th Engineering Company, served overseas in 1967-68 during the Vietnam War. (Photo provided)

A member of the 509th Engineering Company, he served overseas in 1967-68 during the Vietnam War. In December 2018, he was awarded a “Quilt of Valor”.

Back home in Oklahoma City after completing military service, Jerry went to work at Tinker Air Force Base and returned to college to finish his schooling.

He went on to earn a business administration/management degree in 1973 from Central State University (now University of Central Oklahoma) in Edmond. He had attended one semester there in the mid-‘60s before joining the Army.

Jerry had several jobs during and after college, one at a computer company before he quit to become a long-haul truck driver.

It was while Jerry worked for Triangle Blueprint in downtown Oklahoma City that he met his future wife. Ironically, that blueprint company was where the Oklahoma City Memorial’s 168 chairs now stand.

On the front of one of those chairs is inscribed the name “Carol Louise Bowers,” one of 168 lives lost during the April 1995 terrorist attack at the Murrah Federal Building.
When Carol died in the bombing, she was getting ready to retire.

“That was the toughest decision she ever had to make,” Jerry shared. “She finally said, ‘I’ll submit my papers’. Well, she was 24 hours late. They called and told her she couldn’t submit them at that point, and she’d have to re-file.

“The bombing happened just a few days after.”

Carol grew up in Chandler and started working at Oklahoma City’s previous federal building, now the federal courthouse. Carol moved over to the Murrah Building when it opened; she was supervisor at the Social Security Administration office when she died.

“I worked for the blueprint company, just north of her on 5th Street,” Jerry related. “Carol and I met in 1962 and we dated for a year. We married in 1963.”

He and Carol lived several places – Warr Acres, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and even in Dallas for a time – before settling in Yukon 45 years ago.

Carol and Jerry Bowers had one son, Joe, a 1988 Yukon High School graduate who now owns a trucking company.

Joe Bowers married fellow YHS grad Rachell in 1994 and they live in Mustang with their two daughters – 17-year-old C.J. and 15-year-old Emery.

To honor Carol’s memory, Jerry’s family and dear friends visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial on the anniversary of April 19th to place flowers on Carol’s chair.

They also go to the cemetery in Chandler – where Carol and her parents and sister are buried – to decorate her grave.

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PLUMBING BUSINESS

At age 16-17, Jerry had worked for his uncle who had an Oklahoma City plumbing shop for 45 years.

After working so many different jobs, Jerry decided to go into business for himself by starting his own plumbing company in 1981.

Over 20 years, B&B Plumbing served residential and commercial customers in Yukon, Oklahoma City, The Village, El Reno, and Mustang.

“I started out with zero and built it off of word of mouth,” Jerry said. “I worked all the time. When you’re in business for yourself, you work.

“I had good customers in all the areas I worked. I really liked working in Yukon. I liked the people and being close to home. Yukon was a good town to have my kind of business. I really got to know the people.”

Jerry Bowers is interviewed by television news crews during a “Drive to Survive” to honor Carol on the fifth anniversary of the bombing. Some $10,000 was raised – an amount matched by the Sonic Corp. – for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Jerry previously belonged to the Oklahoma City Corvette Club, which traveled 168 miles to collect donations for the April 2000 rally. He’s now a member of the Central Oklahoma Corvette Club. (Photo provided)