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Lessons from a life

I was away at college in 1977 when I heard that Greg Bowers was the newest employee at Farmers and Drovers National Bank, and I recall wondering why.

I didn’t know Greg at the time, but I knew something about the family, since his sister Betsy was in my class in high school. I knew David Bowers was a farmer who, with his wife, Shirley, had nine kids they raised in a modest farmhouse northeast of town. A good, respectable, loving, hard-working farm family of faith was the impression I had, one shared by most everyone I knew.

But what was my dad, Ed Colburn, thinking, hiring this young farm guy to work in the bank? Greg Bowers? Hmm. It must have been a marketing move. I didn’t give it another thought.

I know a little more today than I did back then. Now I realize that the farming bit was just the icing on the cake. It was a plus, as it’s been for Greg’s entire career, but that’s not what got him the job. Inquisitiveness, persistence, focus, intelligence, personality, and above all else, character, were the qualities Dad and Bob Brooks saw in Greg then that I didn’t.

Greg’s humility would cause him to protest any consideration of him as a role model. But he’s not here as I write, so I’ll share some reflections about his life others might do well to emulate.

To those in business, customers are people first, customers second. Greg applied the “golden rule” in his work, treating others with care and understanding, and he and the bank were successful as a result. Whatever you’re selling, your courtesy and smile might be exactly what a person needs to rise up from an otherwise dismal day. They’ll be back in your store as much for that as anything you have to sell.

Have a vision of something you want to do? Plant seeds now. Greg asked for the job nearly two years before he was available to take it. He knew what he wanted, and he sowed the seeds long before any possible harvest. Get to work today on the dreams you have for tomorrow, be both diligent and patient, and you just might make them come true.

Be excited about, and open to, learning new things. Greg grew up knowing farming. However, Greg grew up a scholar, too, as did his siblings. His parents encouraged him to embrace a world larger than the farm, and his curiosity opened the path to a different life. Not a better life, but a different one. It’s that openness to learning that’s helped him live as both a farmer and a banker.

Don’t let your work define you. To this day, it’s hard for me to think of Greg as either a banker or a farmer. Those are things he does, but he’s not what he does, he is who he is — a man defined by the traits I listed earlier, and more. As far as that goes, try not to define others by the work they do, either. We’re all far more than our jobs, and limiting our views invokes stereotypes that cause us to miss what’s wondrous and unique about others.

Have faith in something larger than yourself. It makes the good times better, and it sees you through the hard times. I’ve never talked with Greg about the death of his son, Stephen, in a tragic accident in 2006, beyond expressing condolences. I don’t have to in order to know that Greg, his wife, Mary Beth, and the rest of the family wouldn’t be the joyous souls they are today if not for their belief in God. Some folks are broken by that kind of pain and are never the same again. I’m certain Greg would tell me that while the love of family and friends was of immeasurable help, it’s been his faith that’s made the difference. When you’re around Greg, you see that a life lived in love and joy through faith is a far greater witness than the words of any preacher. Faith realized in action is powerful. Believe in something bigger.

There’s more I could add, but I can already hear the good-natured ribbing I’ll get from Greg that I usually do these sorts of commentaries when someone dies. Greg’s still alive and well, living and farming in rural Marion, and there’s no push to make him a saint — he’s not. He’s a regular guy who’s lived a good, upstanding life, just like a lot of other folks in our community. Some folks wouldn’t consider that special, but they’re wrong. It’s what makes living here special, and sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of that.

— david colburn

Last modified Feb. 5, 2015

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