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A fond memory of time with Otis ‘Doc’ Bowen

September 9, 2013

Dave Horn

The passing of Bremen’s favorite son, Otis Bowen, in May wakened a sweet memory of the first time we met.
Most Mint City folks know Doc began his pubic service career as Marshall County Coroner.
He served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 1956 to 1958 and again from 1960 to 1972.
He was speaker from 1967 to 1972.
He was elected governor in 1972 and re-elected for a second term in 1976, making him the first governor to serve for eight consecutive years in Indiana since 1851.
He taught at Indiana University until appointed by President Reagan as Secretary of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Senate on a vote of 93 to 2, making him the first medical doctor to serve in this position.
He served in Reagan’s cabinet until 1989, when he retired and came home to Bremen.
That’s when we met.
After 15 years with The Christian Science Monitor, an international daily newspaper printed in Boston, I moved to Plymouth in 1988, where I was hired to write for The Pilot-News.
Hearing that Doc had returned from DC, I dialed his number and was invited to interview him at his spacious home in Bonnybrook.
We discussed national health issues, and he explained that Uncle Sam rarely funds remedial action for any problem until it becomes a crisis.
So Health and Human Services tried to anticipate problems and have all its ducks in a line before a crisis occurred.
Then, when Congress finally voted funds, his department could hit the ground running.
Before I left, Doc insisted I take a plastic bag of gourmet jelly beans which he insisted came directly from the Oval Office.
Bowen babies today may recall that President Reagan loved jelly beans, and kept large bowls of them in his White House office and the cabinet room.
After returning to the newsroom, I shared Reagan’s jelly beans with fellow reporters, hoping they might make us smarter, or at least more conservative.
They didn’t.
But Doc’s example of humility, modesty, intelligence and industry still inspire me today, and is one of many reasons why Bremen really is “a good town.”
Dave Horn’s column appears monthly in The Bremen Enquirer. It’s called Sundial, because, as Dave puts it, “I record only the sunny hours.” He can be reached via email at horncs@gmail.com

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