Gladys Evelyn Bowman Ater
August 9, 1918 – June 20, 2012
Mother was truly an incredible person. She had such a kind spirit that drew people to her with her sweet smile. She instinctively knew who needed her, too, as she ministered to the needs of her friends and acquaintances at her home in Coral Oaks. She would seek out someone who needed a friendly face and listening ear while painfully striding down the hallways with her ever-present walker. We all had no idea how painful is was merely to walk a few steps as she kept her "hurts" internal.
Mom started out her adult life in Springfield, Ohio by learning to sew men's shirts at the local fire house under a WPA program, to help supplement the household income for her mother and younger sister, Donna. No surprise, she became very good at it! She then went to work at a local library and used her calligraphy-like writing skills to print the Dewey-Decimal system on all the books, print out information posters, and no doubt run the place. She had been a life-long and very accomplished musician focusing on the violin. I believe she met my dad during a performance, saw him dance, and fell in love. It took some convincing from my Dad to get her to dance with him, but once that happened they danced throughout their life and 65 year marriage.
Mom bore four children: Ronald George was born about 2 years after their marriage, Gary Alan followed some 4 years later, closely accompanied by Karen Sue 18 months later, then – oops! – along came Kathy Lynn 2-1/2 years after that. She and Dad were pleased with "2 of each" and so that completed the family unit. Included in that family unit were our dogs and cats and whatever stray or dying critter I could drag home to receive her care. She did not like birds! She actually had a fear of them (even before Alfred Hitchcock's movie). But she would still help me mend up the ones I brought home and run from them when they were well enough to fly through the house prior to release.
My parents – bless their souls – decided Florida was a better place than Ohio to raise a family and landed in St. Petersburg for good in 1957. Mom stayed home and raised us all, including my father. Then when I, the youngest, was firmly entrenched in elementary school, she took a job outside the home. She started with a local real estate builder then joined the office of Colonel Charles Moyer, Real Estate Auctioneer. She ran the office for many years until the old Colonel decided to retire. She went back to school and became a salesman, then again to become a broker, worked with another Clearwater developer and opened her own office on Gulf-To-Bay in Clearwater in the late 1970's. She retired in early 1980's and Dad and she moved to Highland Lakes in Palm Harbor. This was the good life with much traveling in their motor homes, golfing, making new and lasting friends, pursuing her many artsy talents and volunteer work with the Palm Harbor Library.
Mom and Dad were introduced to Palm Harbor United Methodist Church in 2000. They both loved the church, the staff and made many, many friends. Both loved the Lord and showed it in everything they did. Mom took various Bible Study classes, worked in the kitchen, front office and wherever she was needed. She loved the Harbor Angles breakfasts and different women's gatherings. Her latest "love" was Pastor Dave's Wednesday night Bible Study. Of course she loved his sermons, but those Wednesday nights were very special to her. Some nights I don't know how she made it out of the car, but once her feet were down, she toughed it out and smiled through the pain to see her cherished church family.
Gladys was the daughter of Augusta Belle Marie Byrkett Bowman. Grandma lived winters in our home (summers in Ohio) until her passing at age 91. She was taught to play the violin by her step-father starting around age 10. She said she did not have a normal childhood as every day after school was practice, practice, practice (at least 6 hours a day). She made sure her children DID have that proper childhood of nonsense and play. She loved classical music but was forced by the economy to play at "hoe downs" and bars for the better money. Of course, that's where her George was to be found.
Mom organized all our many camping trips, starting with the basic Sears canvas tents, pop-ups, pull-behind trailers and finally working up to a fine Class C motor home where travel was done in luxury. She and Dad took many summers traveling west until Dad's health and eyesight forced them to sell the motor home. She took the proceeds of the last camper and bought a 2 week vacation for 10 to Hawaii so she and Dad could celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary with all the children and their spouses on a lovely tropical beach. She loved to fly, so often dragged Dad west again when Ron and Gary moved to New Mexico and Colorado.
Mom could drive a car as well as Mario Andrei, drive a ski boat with 2 skiers in tow, handle a large motor home, fly in Ron's air balloon, and fearlessly teeter on the edge of a boulder atop Gary's Colorado mountain home.
Quite a lady, an incredible mother and wife, caring friend, and wonderful person. And that was Gladys Evelyn Bowman Ater. She is survived by 2 sons, Ronald G. Ater, Gary A. (Linda) Ater; 2 daughters, Karen (Kenneth) LaBrant and Kathy L. Ater; 6 grandchildren, Debbie (John) Gerdes, Steve (Shannon) Ater, Kenneth R. (Sheri) LaBrant, II, Robert M. (Tami) LaBrant, Alan (Tonya) Ater, Lisa (Randy) Rankin and 16 great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Suncoast Hospice or Palm Harbor United Methodist Church.