Local woman gets GED at the age of 59

By Julie Fann
star staff

   Someone once asked Aristotle what hope is, and he replied, "the dream of a waking man." For one Elizabethton resident, hope became a path to achievement.
   In the 1950s, Linda Bowman, who lives on Bluefield Avenue, quit school to help her parents support a family and take care of her four younger brothers. Because her mother was chronically ill, even bed-ridden for three years due to rheumatoid arthritis, Linda had to be her hands and feet.
   "My mom was sick from the time I was eight years old, so she depended on me a lot to make sure my brothers had a bath and was ready for school. I'd get them up and ready, then get myself ready," Bowman said. At age 16 and in the ninth grade, Linda quit school and went to work full time to help make ends meet. The family could not afford for her to stay in school.
   By the age of 18, Bowman was married and expecting her first of three children.
   "I worked also, and I had gone several times to try to get my GED, and just one thing or another kept me from doing it. I took care of two sick husbands who passed away, then I took care of my mother until she passed away," Bowman said.
   Born in Wrexham, North Whales, Great Britain, Bowman is the daughter of a female World War II gunner. Though America did not send women into combat during the war, Britain did. "I guess there was a ground cannon, and they would line them up with German planes and shoot them," Bowman said.
   Her father was an American Army infantryman from West Virginia with only a second grade education. "Because of his education, after the war he did trade work because he wasn't able to get a decent job," she said.
   It was 42 years from the time Bowman dropped out of school to the time she went back in 1997.
   "I tested at a fourth or fifth grade level at the time," Bowman said, adding that encouragement from the staff at the Carter County Adult Education office inspired her to stick to her goal.
   In August 2003, Bowman completed her GED. In October, she began college level classes at the Tennessee Technology Center in business systems technology. She hopes to become an accountant.
   "I was always bothered by not having a high school diploma. I felt it hindered me from getting the kind of job I would want," she said. "I'd like to recognize Steve Souder, Joyce Parsons and Ruby Bowers, and also Linda Boling. If it hadn't been for Linda, I would have never started the class to begin with. She said that I could do it and that I needed to get in there and get it done, but I had struggles from 1997 until last year. My second husband was sick and in and out of the hospital."
   Bowman has been nominated for an award by the state's adult education program.