Former Phillips 66 executive and basketball legend Charlie Bowerman inspired a kind of down-home confidence in those he met.
Prince or pauper, no one would need to spend much time in the warmth of his laid-back personality and unforgettable smile without feeling better about themselves — and the world.
His final chapter on this globe has been finished. He passed away on Sept. 2 — preceded by less than six months by his beloved bride Coralea of nearly 63 years. Their union produced three daughters: Cindy Dean (husband Paul), Cristie Lister (husband Darren) and Candie Morris (husband Jeff) and more than 10 grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
"Early in my career he convinced me that I could go as far with the company as I wanted," said Bob Pomeroy, his friend of 48 years. "I did not have a college degree and it was Charlie that convinced me that through hard work I would be fine. Those words .... stayed with me throughout my 39 years with Phillips."
To try to summarize Bowerman's life is like trying to capture a beautiful dawn in a bottle. The scene evaporates. Only the invisible essence of memory remains.
Bowerman was a composite of goodness — a loving and devoted family man, a God-centered believer, a great athlete, a productive doer in his profession, a humanitarian who let his actions do his talking and a behind-the-scenes power in worthy individual and civic endeavors.
"A few words come to mind when I think of Charlie Bowerman: Warm, caring, welcoming, fun-loving, mischievous," said long-time associate and friend Debbie Mueggenborg.
Mueggenborg first met Bowerman when they served together as co-chairmen of the Bartlesville American Legion World Series (ALWS) Committee. Initially, she didn't feel up to Bowerman's level as a leader.
"I was a little nervous about working with someone of his status. ... Dennis and I met Charlie and Corky at (a fundraiser)," she recalled. "The first thing he said was 'I hear we are running a baseball tournament!' From that time on Charlie and Corky were the warmest, kindest and most welcoming to us."
"He was a terrific 'family man,'" Pomeroy said. "Although he traveled a lot ... he always had time for his family. And no one ever had a better friend than Charlie."
Charlie and Coralea were both born in Alamo, Ind.
Charlie grew up with a passion for basketball — and he honed his skills to the level of a Hoosier State legend.
After playing for his dad in high school, Bowerman attended Wabash College (Ind.). He scored 53 points in a five-overtime win against Butler. He later set the school record of 63 points in a game — which still stands today. He led Wabash to the NCAA regionals four times.
In 1982, Wabash inducted the 6-foot-1 former scoring dynamo into its College Athletics Hall of Fame. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inducted him in 1995.
Bowerman's amazing basketball feats resulted in the NBA knocking on his door, as a fifth-round draft choice in 1961 by the New York Knicks. But, Phillips 66 had already interviewed Bowerman for a spot on the iconic Phillips 66ers men's basketball powerhouse (AAU) and a company job.
Preferring the stability of a guaranteed career along with the opportunity to still play basketball at a high level, Bowerman chose to come to Bartlesville.
He earned a chance to try out for the 1964 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team and also earned AAU All-American honors.
After his 66ers' playing days, Bowerman eventually became a Petroleum Products Senior Vice President on an international level and a member of the Phillips board of directors.
He retired in 1999 after a distinguished 38-year career.
Throughout the decades, Bowerman and his wife devoted their energies to boost Bartlesville.
"My family and I decided (in 2006) to establish a scholarship in Lou's memory that would benefit student athletes," recalled Stephanie Skurcenski, whose husband Lou also played for the 66ers, albeit not at the same time as Bowerman. "We place the funds in the Bartlesville Community Foundation. ... I learned that Charlie was instrumental in starting this foundation. His dedication and hard work ... helped to establish this foundation that benefits so many in Bartlesville today."
Bowerman also played a key role in the establishment of the Bartlesville Sports Commission, whose activities have generated many millions of dollars of economic impact for the city, and which also created the Bartlesville Athletic Hall of Fame.
He and his wife played instrumental roles in the building of the new Boys & Girls Club of Bartlesville, Skurcenski said.
Perhaps his most significant informal contribution to local sports tradition was in hosting, or facilitating, multiple Phillips 66ers' reunions in Bartlesville. Far from the spotlight, he also coached youth sports teams and hosted an annual basketball camp for many years.
"Charlie could be mischievous," Mueggenborg said, recalling how Bowerman got a kick off her accidentally referring to baseball Hall of Famer Bob Feller as "Joe" Feller.
"From that moment on he gave me grief. ... But it was always in fun," she said. "I will miss Charlie and his fun-loving personality. I know where he is and I hope to see him there."
Meanwhile, his passing will be profoundly felt.
"He will be missed but he leaves a legacy that we can follow to continue the good work he has started," Pomeroy said.
This article originally appeared on Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise: Phillips 66ers basketball legend Charlie Bowerman passes away