South Bend Tribune/GREG SWIERCZ Horses pull Otis 'Doc' Bowen's flag-draped casket down Center Street in Bremen today after funeral services for the former Indiana governor and secretary of U.S. Health & Human Services.

South Bend Tribune/GREG SWIERCZ Horses pull Otis 'Doc' Bowen's flag-draped casket down Center Street in Bremen today after funeral services for the former Indiana governor and secretary of U.S. Health & Human Services. (May 10, 2013)

People packed the Lutheran church and filled the streets in Bremen to say goodbye to former Indiana Governor "Doc' Bowen.

The beloved longtime family doctor passed away Saturday at the age of 95 and was laid to rest today.

As the flag-draped coffin of Otis "Doc" Bowen approached downtown Bremen, the crowd of hundreds lining Center Street quieted down to hear the military band play and to pay their respects to a man many considered a friend and a life saver.

"I had rheumatic fever when I was in the fourth-grade of school,” said Kent Coontz. “Then he got me over that. I was in bed a year. I missed a year, been good ever since then, haven't been sick,” said Bremen Fireman Kent Coontz. “And he delivered my three girls."

Officers saluted, children waved American flags and some snapped photos of the grand procession which included a horse drawn carriage, a sight the small town of 4,000 has never seen.

"We're all a community and just that he was a big part of our school. We have the Bowen Auditorium and we're in there like every day. It's just special to all of us students," explained Emily Molden as she waited eagerly for the procession to pass in front of her.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence sat in one of more than 30 cars that followed the casket to Bremen Cemetery.

Signs throughout town flashed, "Thanks, Doc." and people made posters honoring him. Some read, "We're all Bowen Babies!"

After leaving political office Bowen returned to Bremen and never left.

"To me, in my heart, this is history and this was a great gentleman," said Tony Ferrer, a Breman firefighter whom Bowen delivered 64 years ago.

A gentleman known to never let politics go to his head and who is credited with the delivery of some 3,000 babies and putting Bremen on the map.

Bowen was married three times. His first two wives died of cancer.

He was laid to rest next to his first wife, Elizabeth Steinmann, who was the former First Lady of Indiana.

His widow, Carol, told friends she hope people remember "Doc" for being a loving husband and father.

Senator Coats' reaction

U.S. Senator Dan Coats was in the area for Bowen’s funeral. He formed a relationship with the former governor while he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Bowen was in the Reagan administration as Health and Human Services secretary.

Coats says while Bowen served that federal health agency, his most lasting legacy on health care may be at the state level in Indiana.

“You know, he was ahead of his time,” Coats told WSBT. “He brought a medical malpractice system to Indiana as governor that resulted in a very favorable system that has brought us top level medical specialists.”

Coats says catastrophic health care for seniors that Bowen helped pass during his time in Washington should be brought back. He argues that would be one way to keep health care costs down.