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Flora Etta Bowlin, Flo, MawMaw, 96, of Paragould, passed away Monday, January 8, 2024. She was born July 29, 1927, in Paragould, to John Bass Burton and Emmaleen Elizabeth (Finney) Burton. She was Emmaleen and Bass’s oldest child. She attended church with her family and was of the Baptist faith. Her personal testimony of faith told of asking Jesus in her heart in the night under an old pear tree. Her simple words. “I asked him to save me and he did.” That night changed everything about the rest of her story.
Flo was preceded in death by her parents, her husband James Bowlin, her son-in-law and her buddy, Brett Gibson, her sisters; Archaleen Downs and Norma Gramling Cornelison, her little brother Jerry Burton, her best girlfriend Terry Kay Orick and her dear friend and travel partner “Captain” Leon Varvil who added adventure, and companionship to her later years.
She leaves behind, her daughter Jamie Gibson,
Grandchildren; Sally Gibson, Molly (Austin) Miller, Abby (Chandler) Cupp, Ty (Emily) Gibson, 2 great grandchildren Beck Miller and Sage Gibson, nieces; Shelia Evans and Sherry Rackley, nephew Keith Downs and many friends of all ages.
James Bowlin was the wild Walcott boy that captured Flo’s heart. They were married when she was 19 he was 6 years older than her. It would take too many words to tell her stories of them. They lived in St. Louis, she worked for the telephone company and Lincoln, he worked for Chevrolet. That might sound good but mom said they always had a new car but no money! They moved back home and built a home for two next to Walcott Park. Then in January 1963, Surprise, after 16 years of marriage and being 35 and 42, little Jamie Sue came along and lived in the house built for two with James and Flo until she got married. James and Flo owned Bowlin’s Grocery (Ms. Addies) where Flo worked, and Jamie sat on the counter as a young child.
As a mom, she was tireless. She could keep a spotless house, yard, cook and most of her years’ work a full-time job. On Saturday the familiar sound of a vacuum could be heard under Jamie’s teenage bed. She was always a hard worker but she knew how to pretend, and play. I was not lonely as an only child, she taught me how to play by myself. She loved my friends. She never fussed about our little living room being covered with sleeping bags and I am sure no sleep due to giggles. Meanwhile, I am sure Dad slept on! She and my dad were total opposites and sometimes it was interesting around the house! Dad could be seen leisurely getting around while mom was already dressed and had dinner cooked, but it worked.
After I married, she never stopped helping me. She had more grandkids than she ever expected and invested her life in them as they did her. Brett loved her and she loved him. He helped her as she became unable to drive and though they may have fussed, they were buddies. We are thankful for their time together and that they are together today.
To Flo’s grandchildren she was their MawMaw. She was the best cook. Her specialties included biscuits and gravy, creamed potatoes, pork chops, red velvet cake, and no bake cookies. She was the best host to a sleepover that always started with a trip to the grocery store and ended with eating something sweet before bed. MawMaw was always up before the kids and they would wake up to the smell of breakfast cooking. She always made them wash their face and pull their hair back before eating. If it was a Sunday morning they might even get a quick bang trim before church. She loved to make them laugh and went along with any new song or dance move they wanted her to try. She drove them around many times as kids but as the years went on the roles were reversed and they got the privilege of taking her places. The trips usually included a trip to Pizza Inn, Wal-Mart, TJ Maxx, Belk, or maybe a pedicure. Every time they were together there were many laughs and memories made. The sleepovers included getting tucked in snug in bed even if they were “grown” grandkids! And life would have it, before she left her house in 2020, she received some tucking in of her own. It is safe to say that there are four kids who had the best MawMaw in the world.
In her later years after James passed away, Flo loved to travel with her friend Leon. He brought new adventure and companionship to her life. They went on many cruises and treasured their times together. She would fly down to Galveston alone or even take a train up into her late 80’s for a new adventure. She took her last cruise at age 88. Leon and his family were very special to Flo and she made many friends during her years traveling to Galveston. Our family is especially thankful for all they did for her.
Flo’s family would like to thank all of the workers at The Greene House Cottages of Belle Meade for the love and care they provided, wish we could name them all. The folks of Busby House became part of our lives. A special thank you to Sammie Joe Thomason and Maria Badillo for all they did. Believe me, Flo was as spicy as she was sweet and the staff embraced her. We love knowing that MawMaw kept making people laugh, smile, and kept causing a little trouble like she has for us our whole lives.
We enjoyed her for 96 years and we will see her again one day. MawMaw Flo can’t be forgotten, she made sure of that.
The family has planned a visitation time on Wednesday, January 10 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. at Phillips Funeral Home. A family burial will follow at Mt. Zion with Rhyne Putman officiating.
I am turning to the light
I am reaching toward the sun
I have journeyed through the night
And the battle now is won
There’s a new song in my heart
There’s a new day dawning bright
Oh I am turning to the light!