Ray Bower dies at 93; pioneer at worlds, M75 sprint champ at Penn

Ray from Diamond Head overlook at age 81.

I smile in recalling Ray Bower’s butt. We shared a dorm room at 2005 Hawaii masters nationals, and his cute little rump stuck out from the bed covers across the room. More important was the fact he could move that butt on the track — and he became a friend as we reunited at nationals. On April 11, I learned Friday, he died in North Carolina at age 93. Cause wasn’t given in this obituary. His funeral was Thursday in Mount Lebanon, southwest of Pittsburgh. He was a sprinter who won at least one M75-and-over 100 at the Penn Relays. He also ran at several world WAVA meets, including the first one in Toronto — back in 1975. (He was fourth in the M50 100 after a 12.0 semi.) At Penn in 1999, he won the 100 in 15.54 at age 75. In Honolulu, we went on a memorable day trip, climbing to the top of Diamond Head overlooking the coast. (See my photo gallery.) I’ll miss Ray for his stories about college football officiating. And for his great companionship. His last race may have been in 2014, when he ran a 200 in 38.25 as an M90. Damn impressive. Thanks for the memories, Ray.

Ray had no problem scampering to top of extinct volcano. I worked to keep up.

Here’s the news obit, in case then link passes away:

Raymond “Ray” Roy Bower once told his daughter, Susan Margaret Hudson, he didn’t possess many talents but knew how to use those he did have to the fullest.

His distinguished football officiating and running careers certainly reflect that humble sentiment.

Mr. Bower, a longtime college football official and short-distance runner, died April 11 at the age of 93.

Born in Mt. Lebanon, Mr. Bower grew up playing everything from volleyball to wrestling, but “football was always No. 1,” Ms. Hudson said. Mr. Bower played football in high school and loved it so much he decided to pursue officiating after attending Westminster College.

Mr. Bower’s “day job,” as his daughter put it, was sales, for which he traveled around the country working for different companies throughout his career. Mr. Bower preferred the job of traveling salesman because he did not like sitting behind a desk, Ms. Hudson said.

Although he enjoyed the challenge of being a salesman and working on commission, officiating was always Mr. Bower’s passion. He officiated games of Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia and many more schools throughout his career.

He even officiated some college basketball games but preferred football.

“I remember asking him why he liked reffing football so much more than basketball,” Ms. Hudson said. “His answer, without hesitation, was he was further from the name-calling fans on a football field.”

As Mr. Bower progressed through the ranks of NCAA football officiating, he was increasingly urged to move on to the NFL. But his spiritual life, plus his love of college athletics, kept him in the college game.

“He was always very committed to not working on Sunday,” Ms. Hudson said, “but he also just enjoyed the amateur nature of college football. There was something about it that he truly fell in love with.”

That dedication led him to several memorable officiating assignments, including the 1973 Army-Navy game, Bear Bryant’s final game at Alabama in the 1982 Liberty Bowl and several other bowl games.

Mr. Bower was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame’s Western Chapter in 1987 for his contributions as a football official.

After his officiating career ended in the 1980s, Mr. Bower fully focused his attention on a short-distance running career that took him around the world.

Preferring the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, Mr. Bower represented the U.S. in England, South Africa and Australia as a part of the World Masters Track Competition.

The highlights of his running career include being a part of the gold medal-winning relay team at the XIII World Veterans Athletics Championship in 1999 and his victory in the 1999 Penn Relays Masters men’s 75-year old 100-meter race, Ms. Hudson said.

“He was physically fit until pretty much the day he died,” said Ms. Hudson, who added that her father ran in a competitive event as recently as four years ago, when he was 89.

With that dedication and longevity in mind, Ms. Hudson’s most memorable advice from her father should come as no surprise: “You just don’t quit.”

Mr. Bower was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Mary Alsop Bower. In addition to his daughter, Susan, Mr. Bower is survived by his brother, Howard Bower, his son, Phillip Raymond Bower, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Arrangements were by Laughlin Memorial Chapel, Mt. Lebanon. A service of celebration will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday at Mt. Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

The family suggests memorial donations be made to the Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen, N.C., or Mt. Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

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April 21, 2017

6 Responses

  1. Ken Stone - April 21, 2017

    Family’s paid death notice:

  2. Bill Collins - April 23, 2017

    Ray was a great friend to the Houston Elite family. He and Charles Allie became very close and travel to meets together. I had the pleasure of rooming with Ray as well and enjoyed our great conversations. We all will miss him and send prayers to his family. As we say thanks for sharing part of your life with the masters track and field family.

  3. Peter L. Taylor - April 23, 2017

    Yes, Bill, as you indicate, Ray Bower was a great guy, and we in the masters T&F family will miss his presence. I had the pleasure of talking with Ray on numerous occasions at the Penn Relays, and I always enjoyed his company.

    Let’s not forget that Ray Bower was also a courageous man, as he had to battle some serious health issues. Ray, you were very important to us, and we considered you our dear friend.

  4. Ken Stone - April 25, 2017

    Philip Bower, Ray’s son, adds cause of death:

    Dad passed from Alzheimer’s, a cruel master, indeed, though he sure fought to the bitter end. He and we were very fortunate that even though Raymie slowly declined over the last ten years (I would say his first symptoms were around age 83), he always maintained his sense of humor, and never lost complete lucidity, even in his last few days.

    His more than half a century of otherworldly physical discipline served him well in his final years as he remained tough as nails, working out at a senior center even in the throes of his Alzheimer’s.

  5. Dick Soller - April 29, 2017

    I got to know (and run against) Ray over the years and considered him a good friend and fellow Presbyterian. Condolences to all.

  6. Barry Kline - July 27, 2017

    Ray was a good friend and a fun traveling companion. Barry Kline

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