Homer Bowen, a longtime agriculture instructor and dean at Modesto Junior College, died Monday while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He was 74.
Mr. Bowen started the agriculture program at Davis High School in 1961, then became an MJC instructor in 1966. He served as dean of agriculture and biological sciences from 1984 until his retirement in 1992.
"He was very well-respected, not only in the ag industry but also in the teaching profession," said Don Borges, who was taught by Mr. Bowen at MJC and now is an instructor there.
Mr. Bowen was born in a farmhouse in Holdenville, Okla., on Feb. 21, 1933. His family moved to Ceres in 1942, and he graduated from Ceres High School in 1951.
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Mr. Bowen met his first wife, Margaret "Maggie" Bowen, at a Ceres-Hughson baseball game. Shortly after their marriage, he left for Navy service in the Korean War.
Mr. Bowen continued his education after his discharge, attending MJC and eventually earning a master's degree in agricultural education at the University of California at Davis.
At Davis High, Mr. Bowen established the agriculture program and Future Farmers of America chapter. At MJC, his work included developing curriculum, advising the Young Farmers chapter and working with the extension service and farm bureau.
After his retirement, Mr. Bowen helped create Tech Prep, which prepares students for careers.
"His rapport with students was outstanding," said Hal Carlton, a colleague at MJC. "He had a knack for having students gather around him."
Another colleague, Pius Scheuber, recalled Mr. Bowen's love of travel, book collecting and other interests.
"He certainly loved nature," he said. "He loved to go up in the mountains, he loved to fish and he just loved people. He loved the camaraderie he had with other teachers."
MJC instructor John Mendes, who was a student there and later was hired by Mr. Bowen, recalled how he "treated each student as an individual and was very caring for his students."
Mr. Bowen earned numerous honors, including Distinguished Service awards from the California Young Farmers Association and the FFA, the Honorary Farmer Degree and the Teacher of Excellence award from the California Agricultural Teachers Association.
Mr. Bowen was preceded in death by his first wife in 1996.
He is survived by his second wife, Margaret "Peggy" Bowen; daughters, Tere Railey, Lori Coburn and Renee Murphy; and 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Lakewood Funeral Home, Hughson. A service will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at United Methodist Church, 1660 Arbor Way, Turlock.
Remembrances may be made to the Homer Bowen Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Modesto Junior College Foundation, 435 College Ave.