BREMEN — Hundreds gathered along the streets of downtown Bremen today to bid farewell to their beloved “Doc.”
Dr. Otis R. Bowen, former Indiana governor, secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and local physician, was laid to rest in Bremen Cemetery Friday. A funeral service at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was followed by a procession through town to the cemetery.
Rick Bowen, the two-term governor’s eldest son, eulogized his father at the service.
“Never did he expect, and I think he’d actually be a little embarrassed, at the outpouring of support,” Rick Bowen said, gesturing to the full sanctuary.
Though formally Otis Ray Bowen, “Doc” was how he was known to all of Bremen, his son said.
“And, after his second term as governor, he was “Doc” Bowen to almost all of Indiana,” Rick Bowen remembered.
He told several stories about his father, including one that happened just a couple of years ago. His father, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and dementia, had a moment of clarity after one particularly difficult evening, Rick Bowen said.
In this moment of clarity, “Doc” asked to speak about his funeral and what he wanted to happen, Rick said. “Doc” asked for four things: a cherry casket, his grandsons to serve as pallbearers, a military honor guard and, as “Doc” put it, “more singing and less preaching.”
“Doc” got his wish at Friday’s funeral. From the full military honor guard and several hymns to the cherry casket carried by his grandsons, “Doc” had it his way, Rick said.
Both the Rev. David Kahlenberg, of the Indianapolis area, and St. Paul’s Pastor Roger Rohde also spoke at the funeral.
Kahlenberg took time during his eulogy to mark Bowen’s “greatness,” as he called it.
“There wasn’t a human being he didn’t respect,” said Kahlenberg, who became acquainted with Bowen during his time as governor.
He called Bowen a champion of family, humanitarianism, statesmanship and faithfulness.
Rohde said the kind of man Bowen was reflected in a story from his own congregation. Bowen was a member of the congregation for years, Rohde said, along with a man from out of state who had moved to Bremen well after Doc’s political days were concluded.
This man knew nothing of Bowen’s political career, nothing of his time as a state representative, speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, governor, or serving under President Ronald Reagan as the first physician to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
He eventually learned about Bowen’s history as a popular governor, but not from “Doc” himself.
That was the kind of man “Doc” was, Rohde said. He had no need to boast of his achievements, he said.
“He was an ordinary man who sought no honor or recognition,” Rohde said. “He saw that God blessed him, and he sought to use the talents that God had blessed him with to the fullest.”
However, those in attendance at Bowen’s funeral certainly gave evidence of his extraordinary past. Among those in attendance were Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his wife Karen; former governors Joe Kernan and Mitch Daniels; both current U.S. senators from Indiana, Joe Donnelly and Dan Coats; U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski; Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller; Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann; and many other local and state politicians and other staff members.
Beyond the famous faces, many everyday residents appeared along the procession route to wish Bowen farewell. His casket, horse-drawn in a caisson down Center Street, was seen by many, some of whom waved American flags in his memory.
“This town and these people were his base,” Rick Bowen said during his eulogy. “He never missed a Bremen High School commencement — that was his time to brag. After the ceremony, we would leave and he would turn to us and say how many (newborns) he delivered out of the graduating class.”
The audience chuckled. Rick said his father estimated delivering more than 3,000 babies in his 26 years as a doctor in Bremen.
“This was a life very well lived,” Rick concluded. “It was measured by doing the right thing.”
Staff writer Amanda Gray: