Dr. Gerald “Jerry” James Bowerly Jr. was born June 15, 1920, in Sheldon, Iowa to Gerald James Bowerly Sr. and Eva Mae Johnson. He passed on October 30, 2019, while residing at Avamere Court in Keizer.
Jerry, one of five children, was raised on a farm in Minnesota and eventually headed west to Oregon where he attended Mohawk High School in Marcola. He studied at University of Oregon and Northwestern School of Dentistry in Portland prior to becoming Keizer’s first dentist. His career carried him into the Navy as a mid-shipman during World War II. He achieved the rank of captain. His family said he modeled patriotism, loyalty and love of our country.
Also known as “Captain” or “Chief,” Jerry spent his last years at Avamere sharing life with many of his former patients and best friend, Opal, and lifelong friend, Dr. Vern Casterline. The pair shared Keizer’s first medical-dental clinic.
Bowerly began his career working nights, convincing the Hyster Guard to allow him to begin filing orders. That evening he met the love of his life, Margaret Zieg, who worked in sales near the filing area. Many glances were exchanged behind the reception desk where she worked. Each night he would walk her hand-in-hand to the street car. On March 4, 1944, at the Evangelical Church in Portland, during Jerry’s senior year, they were married.
“At graduation, I was commissioned as a lieutenant junior grade and given orders to the Naval Training Center in San Diego. My next orders were to Japan, but I was eligible for discharge as the war was over. I was sent to the Marines in Hilo, Hawaii until getting a ship to come home (It was 1946),” Bowerly wrote of his experience.
Bowerly started his practice in Portland, but Margo didn’t want to raise the couple’s children in the city.
“I started looking at prospects in suburban towns. One of my patients in Portland was a cousin of a classmate at Mohawk high. She also informed me that another cousin had just graduated from medical school, Dr. Vernon Casterline, and was going to practice in Keizer. ‘Where’s Keizer?’ I asked,” Bowerly wrote.
The pair developed a business plan that reserved one portion of a building for a pharmacy while the other portion was a medical and dental office.
“After our equipment was installed, Dr. Casterline and I shared the reception room. The owners of the bakery were publishing the Keizer News and they put the word out about our new clinic and the doctors. From the first day of practice I never had a day without patients,” Bowerly wrote.
At the time, Keizer was a bedroom community. Bowerly described Keizer as comprised of the 1916 elementary school, a gas station, a grocery sore, Coomler & Franz Hardware, Dorothy & Chuck Teeters’ bakery, Perterson’s Cupboard Cafe, a meat market and food locker, and boasting groves of surrounding filbert and walnut trees.
Manbrin Gardens was the elite subdivision and the spacious homes along Rivercrest Drive. By 1950, they bought a small home on Will Avenue, now 7th Ave.
Two years later, Bowerly, who was still a Naval reservist, received orders from the 13th Naval District to report for active duty at the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton for another 18 months. He found another dentist to take over his practice while he was at Camp Pendleton and a patient rented out the family home until they returned. He practiced at the same location for another decade and then moved to a new clinic on Linda Avenue in Keizer.
He continued as a Naval reserve officer until 1980 and assisted at the veteran’s clinic in Salem one night a week.
“Keizer has been a great place to live and raise our family, and it is still is inspite of its rapid growth. We are proud of our city,” Bowerly said.
As a civilian, Bowerly became a charter member of the Lions Club, member of Rotary Club of Keizer, served as first president of the Keizer Art Association, as a member of the Salem-Keizer School Board Budget Committee, a board member of the Keizer Heritage Community Center, and was an active member and leader in his church.
He enjoyed family vacations at Detroit Lake playing Shanghai, sipping peppermint tea and “daylight in the swamps” early morning fishing adventures with kids and grandchildren. He loved hiking, camping, water skiing until age 74, snow skiing to age 84, travel, music, Bible study and writing notes of encouragement to widows, shut-ins and other friends and acquaintances. He loved everyone and “lived life large.”
The Bowerlys raised their four children in Keizer: Dave (Dr. David Bowerly-deceased), Judy, Ron and Laura. The couple remained in Keizer for over 65 years. In 2017, after 71 years of marriage, Margo passed away.
Bowerly is survived by daughter Judy Luse (Walt) of Redmond, Ore., son Ron (Shaaron) and daughter Laura Heiman of Salem, Ore., nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life service will be held Nov. 23, at 10 a.m. at Keizer Funeral Chapel, 4365 River Road N. in Keizer.
In lieu of flowers, Bowerly requested contributions to Salem Evangelical Church, Youth Camp Scholarship Fund.
Remembrances, photos and stories can be shared online at www.keizerchapel.com.