By Kenneth J. Souza
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — The one thing that Msgr. John F. Moore will always remember about his late sister, Rosemary, was her enthusiasm for education.
“She was always outgoing and helping people,” Msgr. Moore told The Anchor. “And it was always a very positive experience — not a negative experience. She always approached things from the stance of ‘What can we do?’ and not from the idea of ‘What should we do?’ And there is a big difference mentally on that. I’ll always remember her enthusiasm for education — it was very important for all of us.”
Although Rosemary (Moore) Bowen, 77, passed away September 6, it’s clear that she left behind a lasting legacy through her lifelong devotion to Catholic education. Before marrying her future husband, E. Howland “Ted” Bowen, and becoming the mother of five children, the New Bedford native served as the first laywoman teacher at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth from 1959 through 1968.
“She was always involved in education and Church,” Msgr. Moore said. “I think she taught for maybe a little more than six months in a public school, and then the opportunity came for her to be hired at Bishop Stang High School as they were beginning. She had a deep affection for Bishop Stang — in fact, I just got a card today from one of her former students, who is now a diocesan priest. She had many (future) priests in her classes when she was a teacher at Stang.”
“She was teaching at Roosevelt Junior High School (in New Bedford) after she graduated, but she was also teaching part-time at Bishop Stang and the next year she transitioned to teaching full-time at Stang,” recalled Bowen’s son, Daniel. “I know she talked about the fact that all her coworkers at the time were men, so I’m certain she was the first female layperson teaching there.”
“She was very much involved in the school and all her children eventually went to Bishop Stang,” Msgr. Moore added. “She had a great attachment to Catholic education. At the time, I was serving at Coyle and Cassidy as the chaplain, and they were still two separate schools. We were all very interested in the Catholic school system in the diocese.”
In fact, during those early years at Bishop Stang, Msgr. Moore noted the only other women that Bowen encountered were the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who staffed the high school and also lived in the adjacent convent.
“She was very close to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur,” Msgr. Moore said. “When she married Ted, I remember their wedding day. She was going from St. Lawrence Martyr Church, where she was married, to the reception at White’s in Westport; but the one thing she and Ted did was they stopped at the convent to meet and greet the nuns.”
“That’s absolutely true — it’s in their wedding album,” Daniel confirmed. “We were just looking at the photos the other day!”
Although Bowen eventually left teaching to raise a family and pursue other interests, her passion for academic achievement never waned and it clearly made an indelible impression on her children.
Daniel is currently teaching at Georgetown Prep School in Washington, D.C. and his brother, Patrick, just joined the faculty at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River.
“My first job after I finished graduate school was teaching religion at Bishop Feehan High School (in Attleboro),” Daniel said. “My mother had worked with George Milot, who was principal there at the time, and he told her they needed a religion teacher. I lived at home for the first two years, and my mother pretty much coached me through my first two years of teaching.”
“There were skills and methods that she taught that have stayed with me,” he added. “For instance, I remember having trouble with a student during my first year, he was very rowdy, and she told me: ‘Well, before you think about class management, think about his feelings and don’t ever embarrass a student or a teen-ager in front of his friends. Always give him an opportunity to save face, always take him aside.’ And that person-centered teaching always stayed with me.”
But it wasn’t just academics that interested Bowen, she was also concerned with athletic achievement as well.
“When she graduated from Bridgewater State College, her younger brother — my uncle Kevin — said she was astounded when she went there, because they had a major in physical education and she thought that was the greatest thing ever,” Daniel said. “She was totally committed to education and athletics from the time she was an undergraduate. She ultimately got her master’s degree while she was teaching at Bishop Stang, attending classes at night.”
According to her son, Bowen was also the first women’s athletic director at Bishop Stang and she coached all of the girls’ sports for every season. She was also a physical education teacher while teaching English classes.
“She did it all,” Daniel said. “And she also started the Our Lady of the Lake Day Camp for Girls. The diocese already had a day camp and an overnight camp for boys (at Cathedral Camp in East Freetown), but she started one there for girls.”
“I was doing the equestrian program at Cathedral Camp at the time, working with horses,” Msgr. Moore recalled. “So she became interested in helping to develop a sports program for girls at the camp. She was very dedicated.”
A native of New Bedford, Bowen spent the last 48 years living in Little Compton, R.I., where she also served as owner and principal broker of Spinnaker Real Estators since 1978.
Bowen is survived by her husband and five children: Edward, Patrick, Sean and Margaret Manning, all of Little Compton, R.I., and Daniel of Kensington, Md.
In addition to Msgr. Moore, she leaves two other siblings: Margaret Grandchamp of Adams, Mass. and Kevin Moore of Narberth, Pa.
But for those who knew Bowen best, the most important thing she leaves behind is how to appreciate and value a Catholic education.
“I think she had a great love for Catholic education, I really do,” Msgr. Moore said. “But it was a joyful love of education, not the education for the sake of education. The gift of education was given to all of us, especially through the Sisters of Mercy at Holy Family School (in New Bedford). It was quite spectacular. And to be able to stay there at your own parish and go through high school was (a blessing).”
“I remember walking through the Dartmouth Mall as a little kid with her and people would stop her and come up to her and say: ‘Oh, Miss Moore, you taught me English’ or ‘You coached me,’” Daniel said. “The connection that she made with students was amazing. She coached every single girl that went through Bishop Stang from 1959 through 1968, and she really formed personal bonds with every single student. She always was able to connect with the person — they were never just kids to her.”