James Burr Bowra passed away in Durango, Colorado on May 12, 2022. He was born on May 22, 1925 in Aztec, New Mexico to George B. and Beryl (Milleson) Bowra. His father owned the local newspaper. Customers paid for subscriptions and ads with produce, meat and merchandise. Growing up during the Depression, he considered his childhood a happy one and had no idea they were poor.
In the mid-1930s James went to work for his father on Saturdays in the newspaper back shop. He did most of the “throw-in,” taking the type from the previous issue and redistributing it back in the cases, one letter at a time. He also learned how to set type, beginning with the large type for advertising, and with experience was soon able to set 6 point type for the legal notices. The arrival of a Linotype machine eliminated his job, so he went to work at the shoeshine stand in the barber shop. That shoeshine stand is now in the Aztec Museum. When James was 12 years-old he began working at the local filling station. He was working there on a Sunday morning in December 1941 when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor broke. Fifteen months later he joined the Navy. After boot camp at Farragut, Idaho, he volunteered for duty with the Armed Guard, providing gunnery and communications support for merchant ships. James served on the Liberty Ship S.S. Robert J. Walker in the Pacific. In 1944 he was assigned to the tanker SS Pilot Butte and later the S.S. Glorietta.
After the war he attended Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico and married Joyce Simms. They had a son, Tommy Burr, but later divorced. He returned to the printing trade, working for a job printer in Farmington, New Mexico.
In 1957 he married Carolyn Bernice Gardner. They had a daughter, Carolyn Kai. James went to work for his father, printing both the local newspaper, The Aztec Independent-Review and commercial jobs. As technology began changing the newspaper business, he decided to finish his education and become a vocational printing teacher. He enrolled at Kansas State College in Pittsburg, Kansas (today’s Pittsburg State University). James earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1968 and was honored as the Kansas State Teachers Association and National Education Association outstanding secondary student teacher of the year.
He worked as an admissions counselor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado in the late 1960s. While working on his master’s degree in counseling, he became interested in vocational education, specializing in guidance counseling for vocational and non-traditional students. He earned his Master’s of Science Degree in Guidance and Counseling in 1971. James became the Vocational Counselor and Job Placement Specialist at Otero Jr. College in La Junta, Colorado.
In 1978 he began working for the Department of Defense as a civilian Education Services Officer, counseling service members on career advancement opportunities and continuing education. He was stationed in Camp Humphries, Korea, Mare Island in California, Ludwigsburg and Schwäbisch Gmünd both in Germany, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Netherlands. He retired to spend winters in Arizona and summers in Durango. When it became clear that he did not enjoy gardening in Arizona, he and Bernice returned to Durango year-round.
In addition to gardening he enjoyed golf and travelling. He was a recreational pilot, often introducing college students to aviation. While stationed in Europe, he and Bernice began doing Volksmarches, organized walking events. They started by doing 10K walks in Europe, increasing to 20K. They walked on the Isle of Wight with a German military team and completed a 100K walking tour of Australia as well as attending the International Volksmarch Olympics in Turkey and Japan. They continued to do Volksmarches across the USA and around the world as long as their health permitted.
He was predeceased by his sister Gerogia Fay, his wife Bernice and his son Tommy Burr. He is survived by his daughter Carolyn Bowra, of Durango and grandchildren William (Jessie) Garroutte and Jacquelynn Garroutte. Memorial contributions may be made to the Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village or the Fort Lewis College Foundation. There will be no services.