William Bruce Bowie was born on June 3rd, 1944, to Irene and George Bowie in Vancouver. He was the youngest of four, and with nine years separating him from the next youngest, you can guess that young Bill was his Dad’s unexpected war effort.
As a young man he worked for the BC Forestry Service, exploring the communities, woods, and coasts of the province on the timber cruising crew, making many close friends. Not surprising really; anyone who had the pleasure of meeting Bill could see immediately in his face and in his demeanour that he was a kind hearted man. His appreciation of humour was also written in the lines of his facial expressions.
Bill and his first love, Lynne Marie Normandeau, moved to Atlin in 1970, and then on to Dawson City in October of 1971: Lynn was pregnant with their first daughter. They named her Atlin after the beautiful BC town that marked the beginning of their journey north.
Bill’s commitment to Dawson City is legendary. This is the man who had the audacity to challenged Mayor Peter Jenkins for his political title. Luckily for Peter, during the election campaign Bill chose to keep his promise to his family and went on a long-planned vacation with them. Still; it was a very close race.
And on that political level: It’s worth noting that Bill didn’t have to agree with you to consider your opinion. His friends have told me this, and Bill himself gave me that exact advice when I started my political career.
Bill volunteered for everything. The Yukon Quest, Discovery Days, The Gold Show, and as a fire fighter. Actually; 30 years ago as the Dawson Chamber president, Bill went to a trade show in Inuvik and came home with a vision of a trade show in Dawson and that is how the gold show started.
I don’t have enough time to list all the boards Bill was on: Chief Isaac Board, Dawson District Renewable Council, Klondike Visitor’s Association and the Dawson City Chamber Of Commerce. … and it wasn’t enough to have a business membership, but he would also buy a personal membership: Whether it be for the Museum Board, Or Yukon Foundation, and the list goes on. You see, Mr. Speaker, It was Bills opinion that merely living in a community is not enough; he would always push those he knew to do more. And he lived by that example.
It didn’t matter if it were house on fire, a flood in eagle plains, a fund raiser, or community meeting… Bill was always looking past the end of his driveway to help his community. He was such a strong believer in giving back to his community. Any person or organization in need knew they would not be denied a helping hand if they went to Bill Bowie.
In the mid 70s, he purchased a portable sawmill and started logging near the Klondike River outside Dawson City. Over the next thirty-eight years this enterprise grew into a thriving building supply store, Arctic Inland, and Bill soon installed a new, more efficient sawmill. Throughout the years he was able to supply much needed building materials to communities in the northern Yukon and Alaska.
He took pride in his belief that the areas he logged were healthier after he was finished harvesting the aged timber and would often walk past young healthy trees and say “I will leave those for the grandkids”.
Bill was a visionary and spent the last years of his life developing the wood chipping portion of his business. He believed heating with wood chips was cost effective and a means to making the community more self-reliant. It was proving successful and he was in the process of helping other communities in the Yukon look into the possibility of this heating source as well. Bill was not a boastful man but he was proud to be a logger.
There are so many great Bill Bowie stories. His eldest Atlin once kidnapped her younger brother and demanded a ransom of ice cream. Bill responded to the ransom with a Polaroid picture of himself holding up a knife to the tonque of a beloved toy, a stuffed fox. Crisis was averted, and an exchange was negotiated.
He used to tease people who resided in Whitehorse saying that they should continue north and visit the Yukon someday. He strong supporter of Dawson and buy local - swore that he would wear a paper bag over his head if his wife ever dragged him into wal-mart . I could go on and on. But a man like Bill does not need a tribute keep his memory alive. Conversations will go on and on by the people who counted on him and by those lucky enough to call him a friend.
But I would like to speak about a very specific way we can all keep the memory of Bill Bowie alive. And that would be through the Yukon Foundation. Bill was a Board Member. In their mandate, they do not solicit donations, but they do rely on donations. So I will do a little soliciting for them.
The objectives of the Yukon Foundation are:
To promote educational advancement and scientific or medical research for the enhancement of human knowledge;
To provide support intended to contribute to the mental, cultural and physical well-being of residents of Yukon;
To promote the cultural heritage of Yukon.
If these mandates are important to you; if keeping the memory of good people like Bill Bowie is important to you; please donate to the Yukon Foundation. Their website is [email protected]
And finally, I want to add that a lot of the information for this tribute was provide by Bill’s Wife Helen. And in typical Helen fashion, not much of the attention was given to her and her relationship with Bill. I just want to say that if any of us have a chance to experience a love, a partnership, a friendship as beautiful as theirs; well that alone would make life worth living.
On behalf of all Yukoners, Rest in Peace Bill Bowie.
Today, Mr Speaker, we are joined by some members of Bill’s friends and family: all women, of course… Helen called this morning to let me know who would be in the gallery and she said, “Even in death Bill is surrounded by women!”
Helen Bowie: Bill’s wife
Atlin Shopland: Bill’s Daughter
And long time friend: Mary Seely
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