Rather than take the fastest trek from his car to his office at the Museum of Science & Industry, where he served as development director following a 40-year career at the University of South Florida, Richard Bowers opted to enter and exit the site by way of its tree grove and garden.
“He called it his best route,” said MOSI’s outdoor coordinator Kristen Gilpin, who during the course of her work day would often encounter Bowers, a man she described as a guy with an easy smile and southern gentleman-like disposition.
“It was like getting to work with a really cool grandpa. He always had a joke or a funny story to tell at just the right moment,” she said.
Bowers died in 2007 at age 77, but his memory and the joy he brought to the garden lives on.
After his passing, it was named the Richard T. Bowers Historic Tree Grove in his honor. With the aid of funding from the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Challenge Grant Program, it has since undergone numerous enhancements.
MOSI President and CEO Wit Ostrenko was on hand to welcome a crowd of dignitaries and Bowers’ friends and family to an April 22 ceremony to celebrate the beautification of the site that contains a total of 17 trees with roots to either historical people or events.
Benches with murals painted by local artists, new signage, plant markers and uniquely created wind instruments at the various tree sites, plus numerous new plantings throughout the grove, are among the amenities the county’s grant helped to fund.
And it was Gilpin who was chosen to lead guests on a guided tour of the tree grove.
“This has been a 10-year dream of mine,” she said.
Madge Bowers, widow of Richard Bowers, was among those who took the in-depth tour and was thoroughly impressed.
“He would be amazed because when they started it, it was nothing like this,” she said. “But he wouldn’t like the limelight being on him because he wasn’t that kind of person.
“There is a saying of his on one of the benches that reads, ‘You can do an awful lot of good in this world if you don’t want the credit.’”
Gilpin’s outdoor co-worker and partner, Jill Stacke, also expressed her satisfaction with the site’s transformation.
“It’s just a neat place and I don’t know of anything else like it,” she said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.