Those around North Forsyth High School knew that only one thing could keep Gene Bowles away, and that unfortunate moment came in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Bowles, a man with a big heart and a gentle touch, died around 2 a.m. Sunday at Forsyth Medical Center from heart failure. He was 63.
“If you needed a shirt, he had it, or he’d get it for you,” Mike Muse, who worked alongside Bowles at North for 15 years, said. “That’s just how he was. He was a helper, he was a giver, and he loved North Forsyth High School. You can’t say a bad thing about the man. He is just a great all-around person – coach, mentor, family man.”
Bowles, who lived in King, left behind his wife Jan, sons Jamie and Bryan and five grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Rural Hall Moravian Church.
Bowles KING Wilson Eugene (Gene) Bowles December 27, 1951 - May 31, 2015 Wilson Eugene (Gene…
Bowles “retirement” in 2013 was official, yet it was hard to tell. He remained a fixture at North athletic events the last two years, doing whatever he could to assist at events and keep active once the sun went down and he put his fishing rods away.
Principal Rodney Bass of North coached with Bowles in the 1990’s, and he made a point to say how often Bowles was around since retiring.
“When former students would come back, they would say ‘There’s the legend Gene Bowles,’” Bass said. “Of all the things, I never remember him getting angry over anything. He could find the good in any situation or in any kid or activity he was watching.
“He just wanted to remain a part of kids’ lives. His life revolved around the school … and his family. He had his grandkids and he loved them.”
Bowles’ love for North Forsyth was formed when he was student there in the 1960’s. He left his mark as a running back and linebacker for the football team and as a baseball player. After graduating in 1969, Bowles played baseball for three seasons at Western Carolina.
He spent two years coaching and teaching in South Carolina and another 10 at North Stokes before coming back to North Forsyth in 1986. During 27 years, Bowles coached football for 20 years (four as head coach), spent 21 years coaching wrestling (11 as head coach) and spent 12 years as head baseball coach with a career record of 175-108.
Twice Bowles was conference Coach of the Year in baseball, but he would have won man of the year every season.
“If you think of North Forsyth High School you think of Gene Bowles,” said Sean Vestal, North’s athletic director and boys’ basketball coach. “He spent over 30 years in this building. He is North Forsyth. He was a better man than anything else. He was just a good old boy. You know where you stood with him. He touched a lot of people’s lives.
“He just didn’t have any enemies. He just didn’t.”
Muse said Bowles was like an older brother to him who taught him a lot of wisdom.
“He loved what he did,” Muse said. “He didn’t see it as a profession or a job. He loved kids, he loved people, he loved athletics. He loved what he did. And 95 to 98 percent of the time he had great days.
“He was a role model for how to treat kids, how to treat other faculty members, how to treat other coaches. He touched a lot of lives. He did a lot of things nobody ever knew about. He didn’t like the fanfare or being recognized. Some of the ways he helped kids and some things he did for others, other people just wouldn’t do.”
Bowles’ wide, genuine smile was ever present no matter the situation, and those that knew him could count on his frankness, consistency and his way of finding a silver lining in every dark cloud.
“He had a great sense of humor, great personality and he enjoyed life,” Muse said. “Loved his family, loved to fish, loved to hunt.
“He got it. He took care of his mother and his wife. He was just one of those good old boys who treated people right, gave them respect, loved them and cared for them. He did things the right way.”
Memorials may be sent to: The Gene Bowles Scholarship fund, c/o North Forsyth High School, 5705 Shattalon Dr., Winston-Salem, NC 27105.