Westmoreland family wrestles with the ‘unfair way’ virus-stricken father died | Pennsylvania News

At the same time as her reminiscence more and more slipped, James Bower Sr. insisted on caring for his spouse and maintaining the couple collectively on their three-acre homestead.

However time was taking a toll on them each.

Lastly, about three years in the past, his 5 youngsters — 4 sons and a daughter — satisfied him that he was not in a position to look after her and their dwelling on his personal.

They finally settled in Ligonier Gardens Private Care Residence, the place they shared a room.


Gertrude Bower, 85, stays shuttered there, with worsening dementia and no information of her husband’s demise – certainly one of almost 20 reported to date in Westmoreland County from covid-19.

“He died in a really unfair method,” Bonnie Hoffer, of New Stanton, stated of her 90-year-old father.

An ambulance on April 6 swept Mr. Bower away to Excela Well being Latrobe Hospital after caregivers observed his weak point, slight fever and low oxygen ranges. He died there Monday, precisely one week later.

Mr. Bower had restricted mobility introduced by age however no different well being situations, his household stated. That makes the final month and week of his life much more devastating, because the fast-moving coronavirus robbed them of their remaining moments with him. Like different care amenities, Ligonier Gardens banned exterior visitation weeks in the past in an effort to assist cease the unfold of the virus, and residents had been quarantined in their rooms in late March after six residents and a workers member examined optimistic.

Simply weeks earlier, Mr. Bower bested residents of the house throughout a President’s Day-themed quiz about Abraham Lincoln. He informed his son Ron Bower, of Nice Unity, that he wasn’t a lot involved about being quarantined.

“We’ve bought some checkers and chess gamers and that in right here, so we are able to do this,” Mr. Bower stated.

Hoffer spoke with him by cellphone simply earlier than the ambulance arrived. It could be the final time she heard his voice.

It was heartbreaking to inform him that he was going to the emergency room “and we couldn’t be there,” she stated.

Mr. Bower was reluctant to go. He didn’t assume it was essential.

“I don’t know why they’re taking me,” he informed Hoffer. “I actually don’t really feel that unhealthy.”

“That virus simply hits you want a automotive wreck,” Ron Bower stated. “And that’s what occurred to him inside a day. He was on a ventilator and he by no means got here again off of it.”


Sweeper for a horse

Born in December 1929 in Irwin, he was the son of Earl Man and Florence V. Bogue Bower. After highschool, he joined the Navy, serving through the Korean Warfare.

He and Gertrude married in 1952 after they met at a neighborhood 4-H competitors. She was exhibiting pigs, he cattle. They handed down their 4-H curiosity, and Mr. Bower bartered his strategy to the primary of his youngsters’s many present horses.

Mr. Bower was an “old-time huckster,” his household stated, having grown up as a boy peddling greens from the household backyard round mill neighborhoods the place his father labored. His brother David drove an outdated VW van filled with J.R. Watkins and W.T. Rawleigh merchandise he peddled door-to-door for many years. Mr. Bower as soon as hawked vacuums as a Kirby salesman.

“He truly traded a sweeper for a horse,” son Terry Bower, of Greensburg, stated. “The horse’s title was Trotter. He was a brown and white (American) Paint Horse. My brother Jim was the oldest, so it was his 4-H mission on the time. Shortly after that, we bought one other one.”

The household finally had 17 horses, specializing within the Appaloosa breed, Ron Bower stated.


Dreaded message

Hoffer spoke with medical doctors and nurses each day throughout her father’s temporary hospital keep, serving because the household contact. Every day after talking with workers, she tapped out a gaggle textual content to her siblings.

“It was heart-wrenching to sit down there ready on the texts,” Terry Bower stated. “And because the days glided by, you’ll know in your coronary heart that he wasn’t going to get higher.”

Then, on Easter Sunday, the worst arrived.

“We’re going to have to think about eradicating the life assist due to his situation,” Hoffer’s message learn.

The siblings made the choice unilaterally.

Even when Mr. Bower by some means survived, his lungs could be broken to the purpose of needing a relentless respiratory system, the physician stated.

“Dad didn’t need that,” Ron Bower stated.

Hoffer contacted her father via FaceTime the day he died. The dialog was one-sided.

Mr. Bower had been on a ventilator and medication for every week, with out enchancment. As Hoffer watched remotely, a nurse requested him to squeeze her hand or wiggle his toes.

He didn’t reply.

Mr. Bower quickly was gone. His household is left with out a sense of closure.

“The whole lot was so out of our management,” Hoffer stated. “We couldn’t even be there to like him, up shut and private.”

Legacy lives on

Mr. Bower instilled a powerful work ethic in his youngsters. For 35 years, he delivered papers for the Tribune-Overview, arriving on the Greensburg plant within the late night and delivering bundles of papers to shops and carriers within the area till the wee morning. At one time, he had greater than 500 prospects on his route and recruited his sons for his workforce, stated son Ken Bower, of Greensburg.

“It was high precedence that the paper bought to the client’s home. I can truthfully say that we by no means missed delivering a paper,” stated son James Bower Jr., of Ruffs Dale. His dad was laid to relaxation Thursday with a duplicate of the paper at his aspect.

Mr. Bower served as mayor of Madison for 22 years and was former volunteer firefighter for the borough. He was an lively member of the Downtown United Methodist Church.


Hobbies included looking, gardening, tenting and watching Pittsburgh sports activities. He restored his 250-year-old farmhouse, constructed a horse barn and offered Christmas timber. He didn’t imagine in bank cards or financial institution loans. He lived off the land, looking together with his boys to fill the household’s freezer.


Every of his youngsters recalled his fondness for ice cream.

“He ate a bowl of ice cream each evening earlier than mattress. He requested mother to repair it for him,” Hoffer stated.

Ken Bower stated a few of his earliest reminiscences are going to a close-by pond to gather ice and cranking the churn on chilly winter weekends together with his siblings to make the deal with, or in the summertime months, heading to Foremost Avenue in Madison to Miller’s Inn, the place the children would sit on the hood of the automotive and eat ice cream cones.


Frightened about mother

One other unified determination was to maintain the information of their father’s passing from their mom, a minimum of for some time. Dementia has robbed her means to recollect, even to grasp such information.

“It would do extra hurt than good,” Ken Bower stated.

Gertrude’s sister died lately. Although she went to the funeral dwelling, she nonetheless asks about seeing her.

“It’s a really arduous factor,” her son stated.

The household fears the shut residing quarters their mother and father shared, together with their mom’s underlying well being points, make her prone to the virus.

“I’m anxious about my mother’s scenario however coming to peace with my dad’s scenario,” Hoffer stated.

“I’m involved about my mother so much,” Terry Bower stated. “It’s a miracle by some means that she didn’t contract this.”

Nonetheless, coming to phrases with how rapidly the virus took their father is tough to grasp – and sure will show tough to maneuver previous.

Remaining farewells had been temporary, and for instant household solely, as coronavirus has curtailed funeral providers.

Terry Bower recalled his final cellphone dialog together with his dad, a couple of day earlier than he was hospitalized. He was in good spirits, although he was conscious of the pandemic.

“I hope this flu will get over fairly quickly so we are able to get again to regular,” Mr. Bower stated.


Rebecca Poole is a Tribune-Overview assistant information editor. You possibly can contact Rebecca at 724-838-5146, bpoole@triblive.com or through Twitter .


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