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Leslie R. Bowman

Leslie Ralph (Les) Bowman, 88, of International Falls, MN, passed away on March 2, 2014, at Rainy Lake Medical Center hospital.

Les was born in Virginia, Minnesota, on October 29, 1925, the oldest of twelve children. He grew up in Carp, approximately fifteen miles south of Baudette and attended the Carp School and the Northwest School of Agriculture in Crookston, MN. By the time he was fourteen, he was traveling the country with his father working construction as the American economy moved out of the Great Depression and onto a wartime footing.

In 1942, shortly after his seventeenth birthday, like so many other young men of that time, driven by poverty and patriotism, Les enlisted in the United States Navy. He was trained as a signal man and spent most of World War II operating a signal light on the bridge of a Landing Ship Tank (LST), a 328 foot long ship that landed troops and equipment directly onto island beaches in the South Pacific. He was part of the crew of the US fleet that fought its way through the South Pacific, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines, and Okinawa and eventually landed in Japan after the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. Les was reluctant to talk about his experiences in combat but he described that the battle at Okinawa was particularly harrowing as it was at that point in the war that the Japanese out of desperation started crashing planes full of explosives onto the decks of American ships. Les is a Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2948 and American Legion Post 66.

At the conclusion of World War II, Les married Delphine Palmquist, his childhood sweetheart from Baudette with whom he had five children. Delphine passed away in 2005.

Les was a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 49, and worked as a heavy equipment operator for over forty years. In the 1950s, he worked for Hunkin-Arundel-Dixon as one of the thousands of construction workers who built the city of Silver Bay on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Les built a home and raised his young family there across the highway from Palisade Head near what is now Tettegouche State Park. By 1969, the construction boom on the North Shore was over so Les moved his family north to International Falls to work for his father and brothers at Bowman Construction Company and later for Wagner Construction Company.

Les enjoyed gardening and fishing but his main hobbies were ham radio and computers. His communications training in the military fueled his lifelong fascination with amateur radio and, eventually, with computers. His interest in computers started in the 1980s when he used a Commodore VIC 20 to target his ham radio antenna at the Space Shuttle so that he could talk to shuttle astronauts as they orbited the earth. Because the space shuttle passed overhead so quickly, he used a computer program to calculate its orbit and automatically control the rotation and elevation of his antenna to follow the shuttle as it passed. His computer controlled antenna allowed him to successfully talk to the astronauts and lock in his signal as they flew by. At that time, his computer was just a tool to make his radio work more efficiently. Eventually his interest in computers eclipsed his interest in amateur radio. The internet fascinated him. He loved having so much information available at his fingertips and he loved email.

Les was known as a character and independent thinker who touched the lives of many people. He was kind and generous but he did not suffer fools gladly and was sometimes known to "use a little French" when he judged something foolish. Les considered "bs-ing" to be an important skill and he often expressed his fondness for people with good natured teasing and banter. He got along best with people who would "give him the business" back as well as they took it.

Les is survived by daughters Leslie (Don) Wilson and Stephanie Bowman. He is also survived by sons Ron Bowman and Ric (Julie) Bowman, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Les was preceded in death by his wife, Delphine (Palmquist) Bowman, an infant son, Roland, his parents, Ralph Bowman and Anna (Williams) Bowman, brothers Bob, Lyle, Frank, Delbert and Ralph, and sisters Lee Nemiste and Carol Linder.

The family wishes to thank the people at Rivers Edge Villa and the Good Samaritan Society for their kindness and compassion; Brenda Sueker, Gayle Haugland, Stephanie Knaak and Ryan Chezick for assisting and comforting Les when he needed it most; Jen Dahlin for always making Les smile; and Dr. Jeri Vergeldt for treating Les and enjoying his banter.

Les asked to be cremated and that there not be a formal funeral service. However, the family intends to celebrate Les' life this summer with extended family and friends when they inter his remains.