Dr. Joe Bowler

January 25, 1934 - April 4, 2017
Kalamazoo, MI



Monday, April 17, 2017
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Betzler
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

A Prayer Service will be at 7 pm.

Driving Directions


Tuesday, April 18, 2017
3:00 PM CDT
St. James Chapel, Archbishop Quiqley Center
835 N Rush Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 534-8199
Web Site


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan
222 N. Kalamazoo Mall, Ste. 100
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 345-0273
Driving Directions
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Vandersalm's Flower and Garden
1120 S Burdick
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
(269) 343-2671
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Dr. Maurice Joseph Bowler (“Joe”), 83 of Kalamazoo, Michigan, passed away peacefully on April 4, 2017 in Palm Desert, California, surrounded by his family. Born in Chicago, Illinois to Maurice and Ellen Bowler, who emigrated from Ballyferriter, County Kerry, Ireland, Joe was the eldest of three sons. He grew up on the south side of Chicago and was a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church. He lived and worked most of his adult life in Kalamazoo.

Joe graduated from Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, a Catholic preparatory school located in downtown Chicago in 1952. He attended University of Saint Mary of the Lake (Mundelein Seminary) in Mundelein, Illinois from 1952 to 1956, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1955. Before completing seminary, he discovered within his heart that his true life calling was medicine.

Joe did his pre-medical coursework at DePaul University in Chicago (1956-1957) and Loyola University Chicago (1957-1959). He then attended the Medical College of Wisconsin (formerly known as Marquette University School of Medicine) in Milwaukee, where he received his medical degree in 1963. It was during medical school that Joe married the love of his life, Margaret (Marge) (née Harrington) of Chicago’s south side. They bought their first home and had their first of four children, Mary Ellen, in the Milwaukee area (Wauwatosa). He and Marge remained devoted to each other through their fifty-five years of marriage.

Joe did his rotating internship at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit from 1963 to 1964, immediately followed by residency in training at Henry Ford in the fields of radiology, general surgery, and otolaryngology from 1964 to 1970. During his residency, he left to serve as Lieutenant Medical Corps of the United States Navy based at the Naval Station Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay from 1966-1967. While in residency, he learned he had a passion for otolaryngology (the medical study of diseases of the ear, nose, and throat).

Joe began his thirty-year career as an otolaryngologist, or ENT doctor, in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Burns Clinic Medical Center in Petoskey, Michigan, in 1970. He received his board certification, Diplomat, by the American Board of Otolaryngology in 1971, and became Fellows in the American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery in 1972 and in the American College of Surgeons in 1974. In Petoskey, he discovered his love for the outdoors and enjoyed canoeing, fishing, golfing, skiing, and tennis with family and friends.

In 1975, Joe decided to go into private medical practice. He moved his family to Kalamazoo, basing his solo practice in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery out of his office located at Borgess Medical Center until his retirement in December, 1999. Throughout his career, he held numerous official appointments, offices, and leadership positions in various medical academies and societies. He had active medical staff appointments at both Borgess and Bronson Methodist Hospital. He loved the Kalamazoo community, and he and Marge resided there throughout Joe’s retirement and death.

Joe, his parents, and two brothers Tom and Patrick, were part of the large Irish-American community on the South Side of Chicago. His dad was a stationary (power) engineer in Chicago, controlling and maintaining boiler and other industrial equipment and a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 399. His mom was always a homemaker, although during World War II she took a job at a defense plant near 77th Avenue and Cicero Avenue in Chicago.

Joe fondly remembered and spoke often about his childhood in Chicago. During his years at Quigley and Mundelein, he had a number of summer jobs. He worked at the warehouse at Jewel Food Stores in Melrose Park, for a tractor trailer manufacturer Fruehauf Trailer Company, for the grounds crew at St. Mary’s cemetery, as a counselor at a boys’ camp, as an elevator operator on Michigan Avenue, and what became his favorite summer work, caddying, at Beverly Country Club. There Joe picked up his interest and early love for golf.

Joe was a good athlete, going back to his days at Sacred Heart. He and some classmates formed a softball team and played in a Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) sponsored league among Chicago’s parishes. His brother Tom recalls having the occasion to fill in for a missing player once or twice, and remembering that Joe was a very good outfielder (left field), as well as a solid hitter. Joe also developed an interest in basketball, and followed the CYO and tournament games at St. Sabina’s gym. On the basketball court, he developed a unique modified set shot/jump shot, quick on the finger release, that would make Bob Cousy blush.

Joe often recounted to family a real “beater” of a car that he bought, whose best days were way behind it. The car had a lot of rust, not only on the outside, but on the inside the floor panels had holes in them which Joe covered with plywood. His brother Tom recalls borrowing the car to take his wife Janet out, and when the floor covering moved she saw the street passing under her feet. Joe recalled that at one point the floorboard had gotten so hot, the excessive heat caused a fire to start and burned a hole in the plywood.

Joe had a life-long affair with golf that became his true passion after family and work. Golf brought him together on the course with his children, brother Tom, extended family, and friends, and Marge was very understanding and supportive of his love for the game. He was not the longest hitter off the tee, but he played the ball straight; and, when he didn’t, he let you know it. He was eager to play golf anywhere—public, private, resort, municipal, even executive golf courses if that was all that was available. He made trips to play the Old Course at St. Andrews, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Whistling Straits, and he had many favorite courses throughout Southwest and Northern Michigan. His family fondly remembers making many trips with Joe to the Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. He played his last round of golf, joined by one of his sons, in Orlando, Florida as recently as mid-January of this year—just a month before his cancer diagnosis. His swing during that final round still exemplified the effortlessness and fluidity of Julius Boros that was the trademark of Joe’s golf game.

Family and friends recall Joe as a prince of a man and all around wonderful guy. His life was well-lived, and he accomplished much in his eighty-three years. He was a loving husband, father, son, and brother who made everyone feel welcome and special. He was engaging, unfailingly polite, and intently curious about everything. He had a cheerful heart, great sense of humor, and liked to tell and listen to a good story. Joe was the kind of man who you wished you could have known better. He never met a stranger and had a genuine interest in people. Whether you served his carry-out order, waited his table, or looped his golf bag, he wanted to know “your story” and understand what makes you tick. He was a modest man and treated people with dignity and respect.

Joe loved being a doctor and was very serious about his work. He was a very gifted physician and well regarded in the field of otolaryngology. His patients recall Joe having a very good bedside manner and a fine sense of humor which eased the tension of the hospital visit. Outside of his medical practice he had a balanced life and care for his family, himself, and others. His children recall that despite his long work hours and frequent on-call schedule, Joe made every effort to attend their school and sporting events and make one-on-one “dinners out with dad” with each of them. He knew the value and importance of vocation selection, fulfillment in work, a strong marriage and successful marriage partner, family, good friends, good luck, and a vibrant city and neighborhood. He especially loved Petoskey, Kalamazoo, and the Whites Lake community. He took a keen interest not only in his own friendships but also in the relationships that his children developed with close friends.

Reflecting on his own 83 years, Joe said his memories remained fresh and vivid. He often recounted sweeping changes in the world since his birth in 1934 when there were no jets, television in his home, or interstate highway system. Joe believed his life was charmed and lucky, that there were too many good stories to recount them all; and that his years were filled with solid people and friendships. His family and friends commonly used the words faithful, inquisitive, intelligent, well rounded, kind, generous, warm hearted, loving, supportive, loyal, and humorous to describe Joe.

Joe lived a Christian life and made every effort to display the true image of God in his life; however, he was fully aware of his shortcomings and spent a lifetime trying to improve himself. He actively supported his local parishes, including Saint Monica Catholic Church and later the Cathedral of Saint Augustine. He was devoted to Holy Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation. There was no traveler’s, or work, or other dispensation from Mass in the book of prayers that Joe carried with him. Family vacations sometimes involved a trip to a Protestant service if that was all that was available. Joe enjoyed socializing outside the Church after Mass with friends.

Joe was well aware that life was a journey and education of many subjects and he was a life-long learner. He believed that knowledge is central to personal growth. He believed that a degree is a set of skills, which nobody could take away from you. What you did with this skill-set was up to you. Joe believed that a liberal arts education was great preparation for success in life. He understood the importance of mentors, formal and informal. He had many mentors (too many to list) throughout his school and professional years. His mentors included priests, faculty, physicians, good friends, and many other men and women who provided career and personal advice and both professional and personal enrichment.

Joe impressed upon his children to strive to reach their full potential and become well-rounded. He was inquisitive and open-minded. He listened carefully to your ideas even when they challenged his own beliefs. He had a profound self-awareness, as well as a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of life. He got a lot of pleasure out of “observing.” If the world were divided into people who are merely looking to get from point a to point b, and those who are looking and soaking it all in while going from one place to another, Joe fell squarely into the second camp. Whether it was watching people or things (e.g., cloud formations, a deer in the woods behind his home, or the petals on a rose in his beloved rose garden that he faithfully tended, etc.), he got a new view not just on other people, but on the world. He found it fascinating to learn just by stopping to observe.

Joe reflected and meditated often about life, death, and their many mysteries, as well as personal losses. The loss of his parents, his youngest brother, and close friends, all had a profound effect on Joe while he completely accepted their deaths. He was not uncomfortable about death or attending funerals or memorial services. In fact, Joe, like his father before him, enjoyed the opportunity and travelled far and wide to celebrate another’s life well-lived, share a special memory, and help with the grief of the survivors. He made countless trips around the Kalamazoo area and into Chicago for the visitations and funerals of old classmates, extended family, and friends.

Joe loved to read—and he read a lot. His books, magazines, scholarly journals, and newsletters are dog-eared; highlighted with underlining, colorful marker, asterisks, and check marks; and filled with handwritten notes, relating to excerpts, passages, and words that he found interesting, wanted to examine more closely or think about, or thoughts and ideas that he had while reading. On Joe’s passing, his family found six dictionaries surrounding his reading areas. He could carry a conversation with anyone about science, literature, grammar, poetry, theology, philosophy, history, geography, politics, and many other subjects. But if you started a conversation with him about politics, then you best be able to finish it even if he was not a fan of your political party and candidate.

Joe and Marge liked to travel together around the country and abroad and enjoyed their time in Palm Desert, Hilton Head, Orlando, Spain, and many other places. He loved to hand write a personal letter to family and friends. His letters often went through several drafts and self-edits before he was satisfied to sign and send them. If you think doctors’ handwriting can be bad, Joe’s penmanship was a hall of famer, which he was very well aware of. And if you are fortunate to be able to read his handwriting, then you may be able to help his family decipher some of his old letters, if needed!

Joe’s home was a house of love and music. Like his varied sources of reading material, he had a diverse musical ear. His music collection included classical, religious, folk, jazz, R&B, country, and popular. His family recalls his love of Dave Brubeck, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Bach, Beethoven, Tony Bennett, Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Croce, the Beatles, and many other musical artists. Joe also loved to watch films and his favorites included Shane, Inherit the Wind and 12 Angry Men.

Joe loved to celebrate the holidays and especially Thanksgiving Day and the Fourth of July surrounded by his family. He thought he had much to be thankful for in his life. He was patriotic and thought this country was great and good for many reasons. He liked to talk about his favorite U.S. presidents and get your thoughts on your own favorites. He enjoyed carving pumpkins on Halloween, which continued long after his children left home until his final years.

Joe loved going to school reunions at Quigley and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Reunions to him were a great opportunity to reflect back on a time and place that formed an important part of his life and growth. He recently celebrated with his classmates the career achievements of their 50th-anniversary on their graduation from medical school. His family recalls how happy he was to participate in that reunion. And boy could Joe dance. At weddings and balls, he and Marge glided around the dance floor like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Joe was very proud of his Irish heritage and felt a real identity with the glory of his parents’ birth-land. But his “Ireland” was not commercialized Irish images and sentimental songs like “Green Alligators” and “Toora Loora Looral.” He loved the authentic Ireland and made multiple visits there, including spending time with his two daughters who each spent an academic year at Maynooth College.

Throughout his adult life, Joe served as a bridge between his immediate family and extended family in Ireland and on the south side of Chicago. In Ireland, he cherished his time welcomed into the homes of his Irish aunts, uncles, and cousins in Dublin and on the west coast of Ireland in County Kerry. His family has fond memories of these trips around the Dingle Peninsula to Ballyferriter, the Three Sisters, the Blasket Islands, and the Ring of Kerry. Up to the time of his death, Joe regularly wrote letters and telephoned his Irish relatives, exchanging news on family and events. On learning of his death, a family member in Ireland said “He'll always be Maurice to us!” (which Joe and family pronounced MAUR-ice). To the Irish, Joe was Maurice, at home growing up he was “Moss” or sometimes “Moorish, while in later years he was Joe to about everyone.

Joe loved and was very proud of his seven grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. In retirement, he often travelled to Chicago and Atlanta to attend his grandchildren’s academic, sporting, musical, theatrical, and other events. He got a lot of enjoyment out of spending quality one on one time which each of his grandchildren, sharing their interests, and watching them grow up.

Joe was a very solid and contributing citizen of Kalamazoo. He enjoyed and actively supported the local arts. He held numerous civic and community leadership roles. He served on the Board of Directors of the Kalamazoo Chamber Music Society, the Michigan Association for Better Hearing and Speech, the Constance Brown Hearing Centers, and the Bach Festival Society of Kalamazoo. Over the years, he supported the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, The Civic Theatre, Kalamazoo College, and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. He also volunteered at Hospice Care of Southwestern Michigan.

Joe is survived by his wife of 55 years, Margaret; daughter, Mary (Joe Greenberg) of Glenview, Illinois; daughter, Anne (John Madden) of Hinsdale, Illinois; son, John (Leslie) of Atlanta, Georgia; son, Kevin (Leigh) of Kildeer, Illinois; brother Thomas (Janet) of Darien, Illinois; sister in law Nancy of Largo, Florida; grandchildren Maggie, John, Jr., (“Jack”) and Peter of Hinsdale; Michael and Connor of Atlanta; and Colin and Benjamin of Kildeer; and many loving nieces, nephews and other friends. Joe was preceded in death by his parents and his youngest brother Patrick of the Chicago Fire Department who died in the line of duty during a house fire in 1978.

A special thank you to the doctors and staff at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California and Reliance Hospice Inc. and ManorCare Health Services in Palm Desert.

Also thank you to Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes for all of the arrangements.

The family will receive friends for visitation on Monday, April 17, from 4 PM until 7 PM, with a Prayer Service at 7 PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. A private burial will take place at Mt Olivet Cemetery on Tuesday, April 18. A Memorial Mass will be held on Tuesday, April 18 at 3 pm at St. James Chapel, Archbishop Quigley Center, 835 Rush St., Chicago IL 60611. Memorial donations may be made in the memory of Joe’s name to Hospice Care of Southwestern Michigan (http://www.hospiceswmi.org/), 222 N. Kalamazoo Mall, Ste. 100, Kalamazoo MI 49007