Maryellen Bowers, 96, Dies in North Carolina

Category: Obituaries
Created on Thursday, 27 June 2019 15:55
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Maryellen Severinghaus Bowers

Maryellen Severinghaus Bowers, 96, died peacefully at her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, after a period of declining health, on May 13, 2019.
She was born Oct. 8, 1922, in Ithaca, New York. She graduated from Cornell University in 1943, after which she moved with her husband, Wayne, to Los Alamos, New Mexico.
After spending a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Wayne and Maryellen moved to Chapel Hill where they lived for the rest of their lives, apart from a number of sabbatical years spent in Cambridge, England, as well as one in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Maryellen was an accomplished seamstress and knitter, making most of her own clothes as well as many for her family. In later years she added to her repertoire of skills by taking up tie-dying and weaving.
She loved gardening, and was especially fond of camellias, with which she surrounded her house on Franklin Street over the years.
She also was active in community affairs, particularly during the racial integration struggles of the 1960s. She was once referred to by a segregationist opponent as the Madame Defarge of the integration movement on account of her habit of knitting during meetings. Needless to say, Maryellen was unfazed by this bit of nastiness and continued to knit while playing an active role in the struggle against Jim Crow until it was eliminated from Chapel Hill.
On another occasion, she was involved with a group of citizens opposed to a local bank’s desire to erect a multi-story building on the main block of Franklin Street which would have been incompatible in height with the rest of downtown. Maryellen had the idea of hoisting a balloon to the proposed height of the building. Many people, startled by the visual impact, were persuaded to sign the petition that her group had ready at a table on the sidewalk in front of the bank and, ultimately, those opposed prevailed.
Maryellen was preceded in death by her husband Wayne Alexander Bowers, who died in August 2008, and her daughter Margaret Ellen Barrett, who died in April 2008.
She is survived by three children, John Severinghaus Bowers of Ithaca, New York, Ruth Elizabeth Bowers of Stockton, New Jersey, and Wayne Cameron Bowers of Sitka; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
A memorial gathering will be held 2 p.m. (E.S.T.)  Sunday, August 18, at 714 East Franklin Street – the home Wayne and Maryellen bought in 1949 to raise their family in.
Contributions in Maryellen’s memory may be made in lieu of flowers to the American Friends Service Committee at the Southern Poverty Law Center.