The Rev. Ed Bowen’s mark on Crafton’s elementary schoolchildren — his creation of after-school programs, his $200 savings bonds, his leading the conga line at school dances — made his move to West Virginia in 2012 a sad occasion.
Rev. Bowen, a pastor at the Crafton United Presbyterian Church for 12 years, had been reassigned by the church to lead a congregation in Huntington, W.Va.
When, just two months later, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer that had appeared to have taken root in his stomach, he saw an opportunity to give back to a community that was devastated from the news: He donated an eye-popping $200,000 for an endowment benefiting Crafton Elementary School.
The donation, which indefinitely provides $10,000 a year to the school, grabbed headlines and stunned the community. Yet his closest friends said his unflinching spirit of volunteerism and generosity will be remembered as much as the Rev. Ed Bowen Charitable Fund for the Children of Crafton, now a permanent endowment at The Pittsburgh Foundation.
Rev. Bowen died at his home in Huntington on Monday at the age of 52.
“He was always very genuinely looking for opportunities to serve others,” said Megan Shriver, who first met Rev. Bowen when her oldest son, now 17 years old, was in preschool at the church.
Not long after that, she recalled, he asked her how he could be of service at the elementary school. Though he was unmarried and did not have children of his own, he became avidly involved in school activities, helping out with school-run programs and eventually creating his own after-school youth club.
“It just kind of snowballed from there,” she said. “It was his calling.”
He grew up in Ohio and Indiana before moving to Pittsburgh at age 10. After graduating from Bethel Park High School in 1982, he got a degree in accounting and economics from Grove City College.
Shortly after, he decided to attend the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, earning a master of divinity degree in 1991 and the doctor of ministry degree in 1998.
Jim Nagorski, a retired teacher who was a close friend, said he met Rev. Bowen shortly after he moved to Crafton in 2000.
“When I met him, there was an instant connection between himself and me,” Mr. Nagorski said.
“We believed the same things, and we were each trying to use opportunities to help children be better people. And he was the master of that.”
He met the kids after school and walked with them over to the church, where they worked on homework and ate snacks, Mr. Nagorski said. “This was something that was really needed in the country because the parents were working. He really filled that void.”
Now a member of the Crafton Parent Teacher Association, Ms. Shriver remembers getting the awful news of his diagnosis, followed by his decision to start the endowment. After lots of discussion, it was agreed that a committee of two teachers, two PTA representatives and the principal would decide how to use the disbursements each year.
“We couldn’t even say [the amount of money] out loud because it was so overwhelming,” Ms. Shriver said. “We really struggled with that. Because what do you do with that? How do you honor someone who’s given that much to you?”
Among the first projects under the fund were three pieces of play equipment — a Helix, a Whirligig and a Cosmic warp — as well as a large projection screen.
Following his death this week, the Crafton PTA put out an official statement.
“The fund says a lot about Ed,” the statement read. “He was incredibly, almost unbelievably, giving of both his time and money. He loved working with kids. And he was a planner.”
Even while receiving chemotherapy and forced to step down from full-time pastor duties in West Virginia, he volunteered to substitute for other pastors. He also started another youth program and an endowment for children in Dunlow, W.Va., in southern Wayne County.
“He really found purpose and meaning in that work, even though he was so sick,” Ms. Shriver said.
Mr. Nagorski said his friend was upbeat and calm as he fought his disease, and outlasted doctors’ expectations by three years.
“He still had work to do,” he said. “There’s just not going to be another one like him.”
The funeral was held on Thursday at the Crafton United Presbyterian Church. He is survived by his parents, Charles and Joyce; his brother, Andrew; and his niece, Mychaella.
According to his obituary, memorials may be made to the Crestfield Camp and Conference Center, 195 Taggart Road, Slippery Rock, PA 16057.
Daniel Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2743.