Virginia Woodruff Bowen, 93

March 17, 2021

Virginia Woodruff Bowen, mother of four, retired teacher in the Calvert County Public Schools, widow of Perry G. Bowen, Jr. (who served on the Circuit Court for Calvert County), died at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland on March 11, 2021, her 93rd birthday, from complications of Covid-19.

The only child of Berkeley Alter Woodruff, a veteran of World War I, and Una Virginia (McCullers) Woodruff, an Army nurse, Virginia Elizabeth Woodruff was born on March 11, 1928, and grew up in Waverly Mills and Pawley’s Island in coastal South Carolina, where she learned to ride and hunt. A life-long lover of creatures, she adopted a menagerie of animals from the wild including an orphaned fawn and baby alligators.

A gifted student, Virginia Elizabeth, as she was called, graduated from Georgetown High School in Georgetown, South Carolina, and received her bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She aspired to become a social worker. In her first employment following graduation, she provided recreational therapy to disabled and recovering veterans at a veterans’ hospital.

In 1950, the then Miss Woodruff was introduced to Perry Gray Bowen, Jr., a young lawyer from Calvert County, who was stationed in South Carolina while serving in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Army. The two were married on November 24, 1951, at what is now Trinity Cathedral in Columbia. The new Mrs. Bowen enjoyed her role as an officer’s wife. The accompanying photograph is the one her husband carried with him during his military service and throughout their sixty-six years of marriage.

On completion of their time in the military, the couple settled in Calvert County, living first in Dares Beach, then in Scientists’ Cliffs and ultimately building a home on the family farm on the Patuxent River. The couple raised three daughters, Virginia Woodruff Bowen (Ginger) (who died in 1992), M. Elizabeth Bowen (Beth) and Sara Gray Bowen, and a son, Perry Gray Bowen III.

As her oldest child approached admission to college, Mrs. Bowen returned to college herself and completed the courses necessary to obtain her certification to teach. She worked as a full-time substitute for several years and then taught sixth grade language arts and social studies at Calvert Middle School for a decade. She was a support and mentor for her students both in and out of the classroom. Until her death, former students remained in touch with her.

Mrs. Bowen’s life was one of service to her family, her students, and her community. A gracious hostess and resourceful cook, she welcomed all at her table. Young and old found refuge in her home. As a young wife, she volunteered with the Red Cross and intervened directly to stop incidents of neglect and mistreatment of the vulnerable. A skillful and determined advocate for causes she believed in, she was instrumental in the founding of The Calverton School, the building of the new parish hall at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and the acquisition of “Linden,” the home of Miss Sadie and Miss Marguerite Gray, by the Calvert County Historical Society.

An artist with flowers and found plant materials, Mrs. Bowen was a mainstay of the Calvert Garden Club and contributed her talents over the course of many years to the House and Garden Pilgrimage, the holiday decorations of the Courthouse and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the annual Flower Mart, and countless flower shows.

Mrs. Bowen was a longtime member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church where she served on the Vestry and the Altar Guild; she was a stalwart in the service projects of the women of the church. Both she and her husband were dedicated members of the Calvert County Historical Society.

In the years after her retirement from teaching, Mrs. Bowen worked as business partner, cook, and creative force in “Sara’s Kitchen,” the culinary enterprise of her daughter Sara. Mrs. Bowen and her husband enjoyed steamboat cruises on the Mississippi River, vacations in Hawaii, and an eventful trip to Russia to attend the wedding of Maxim Achkasov, who had lived with them for several years as an exchange student.

In 2000, Mrs. Bowen and her husband moved to Oaken Brow, an historic home in King George, Virginia, where they continued the traditions of hospitality and community outreach which had been the hallmarks of their life in Calvert County. After much research into her family’s history, Mrs. Bowen became a member of the Leedstown Resolutions Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She attended St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Port Royal.

Following her husband’s death in 2018, Mrs. Bowen moved to Amazing Grace Assisted Living in Bel Air, Maryland, near her daughter Beth’s home. Her spirit and her sense of humor endeared her to every member of the Amazing Grace community.

Mrs. Bowen was the beloved “GinGin” of her grandchildren Maron Elizabeth Bolton (who died in 2013), Eleanor Bowen Nixon, Emma Virginia Morse Bolton, and William Warner Bolton, and of her “heart’s grandchildren” William Benitez (Ben) Shand and Peter Johnson Shand, all of whom spent many happy hours in her care. A day with GinGin was always an adventure. Mrs. Bowen delighted in the exploits of her great-grandchildren Alina Madison Ortiz, Anaya Noelle Ortiz, and Finley Gray Nixon, and of Henry Shand. Her focus was always on the next generation.

As it is unsafe for friends and family to gather at this time, a celebration of Mrs. Bowen’s life will take place next year on March 11, 2022, her birthday. In the meantime, all who wish to honor her memory may follow her example of concern and compassion for others by wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, obtaining the vaccine when available, and working together to bring this pandemic to an end. In lieu of flowers, those who wish to make a memorial gift may consider a donation to the Maryland Food Bank, the Calvert County Historical Society, The Calverton School, or the charity of the giver’s choice.