Profiles in the Garden
Elma Kennedy Porter Bowden was born in Harrells in Sampson County, North Carolina on September 12, 1922. She graduated from Franklin High School but did not go to college at that time because her mother had died recently. Elma came from a large family but was the only girl so she felt obligated to help out at home. Her first husband was visiting his family in Sampson County when she met him. Elma married Charles Porter in 1942 in February before he had to go overseas in World War II. They lived at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for a short time and then St. Augustine, Florida, where their first and only child, Rowena, was born. Mr. Porter fought on Omaha Beach in Normandy Invasion and in the Battle of the Bulge. Elma and Charles were married for fifty-five years. He died in 1997 just prior to his seventy-eighth birthday. For four years she lived alone but remai ned active in all of her clubs and organizations which included Cape Fear Garden Club and Eastern Star. In 2001 she married Lloyd Bowden, Sr., a widower, fellow Eastern Star member and a longtime friend of both she and her husband. They were married five years before his death in 2006. Elma has maintained her relationship with Mr. Bowden’s son, Lloyd, Jr., who calls her “Steppie”. About one year following Mr. Bowden’s death, Elma moved into Brightmore, which is an Independent Living Facility, to be closer to Margie Watley, one of her good friends. She continues to be active there, participating in many of their activities including playing the piano for many of their events.
Elma raised her daughter and was also responsible for bringing up two other little girls, who were her brother’s children, when their mother died seven years after having the second child. Her brother died of a stroke shortly thereafter. Both girls grew up to be fine women but both have died.
Elma was a career woman and worked at Garver Manufacturing for twenty-two years, first as Payroll Supervisor and then Personnel Director until it closed. After leaving Garver, she took one year off but was dissatisfied staying at home and applied for a bookkeeping job at Ward’s Funeral Home. It wasn’t long before she decided to go to college at age fifty and become a funeral director. She worked at Ward’s (which became Ward-Smith) for ten years and then worked at Andrews Mortuary for sixteen years. She retired again but it wasn’t long before Coble Funeral Home recruited her to work there. She handled various duties but the one she probably enjoyed most was playing the piano or organ at services. She continued to work there until about a year ago when she finally decided that she would retire again.
Elma has been a member of the Cape Fear Garden Club almost forty (40) years and has served in many capacities including club president. Her term as president, 1988-1990, was the last two year presidential term. She currently serves on the Flower Arranging Committee, the Standard Flower Show Committee and the Telephone Committee. She is a life member of The Garden Club of North Carolina, The South Atlantic Region, and The National Garden Club. On district level she has served as assistant district director and district director and is currently serving as District Chaplain. On the state level, she has served as State Chaplain and on the Roadside Wildflower Judges Committee. Elma has attended many district, state, regional and national meetings. She recalls a trip to National Convention in Dallas with Jenene Smith when they visited the school book depository where President Kennedy was shot. She has sponsored several awards on state level and recruited many new members including her own daughter who went on to serve as State Treasurer.
Mrs. Bowden is certainly a role model for leading a full life. She is eighty-seven (87) and she continues to play the piano for many groups including the chapel service at Brightmore. She has been a wife, a mother, a worker in several occupations, and an active member in many community organizations.
Interview and profile completed by Ms. Carole Ellis 2012 updated 11/2014
Listed below are links to previously featured interviews:
Mrs. Caroline Augustine, President 1997 – 1998
Click here to read Mrs Augustine’s story which was featured in the Fall of 2015
Mrs. Jenene Curtis Smith, President 1993 – 1994
Click here to read Mrs Smith’s story which was featured in the Spring of 2015
Alma Fennell Ivey, President 1990 – 1991
Click here to read Ms.Fennell’s story which was featured in 2011.
Mrs. Lucien (Freda) Wilkins, President 1981 – 1983
Click here to read Mrs Wilkin’s story which was featured in the Fall of 2015
Mrs. Bruce (Dot) Bryant, President 1977 – 1979
Click here to read Mrs Bryant’s story.
Mrs. O. Raymond Hunt, President 1975 – 1977
Carole Ellis interviewed Mrs. O. Raymond (Eleanor) Hunt who served as Cape Fear Garden Club’s President 1975 – 1977, click here to read Mrs Hunt’s story as related to Carole.
Mrs. Jane Mitchell – 1909-2009
Click here to read Mrs. Mitchell’s story which was featured March 2015. Interview and profile completed by Ms. Carol Ellis, 2009-2010.