Famous Ravenna man to be honored in June

By Mike Sever | Staff Writer Published:

A 5K run and a one-mile memorial walk will be the featured events on June 8, when the Col. William Marsh Bower Center is dedicated at the Portage County Airport in Shalersville.

Col. Bower, a Ravenna native who died Jan. 20, 2011 at the age of 93, was one of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle's famous "Tokyo Raiders."

Bower piloted B-25 bomber No. 12 on the April 18, 1942, raid that saw American forces strike at Tokyo in retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that precipitated the United States' entry into World War II.

Ronald Siwik, one of the organizers of the events, said the idea is to honor a famous son of Ravenna and raise interest in aviation.

"I have had such a great life in aviation, I just want to give back," Siwik said.

Siwik has been flying for more than 43 years and last year flew around Ohio with Joe Murray, a Kent State University professor.

Murray and Siwik flew a pair of vintage Piper Cub aircraft on an aerial tour of all of the state's 88 counties.

Siwik said Murray and many others are involved in planning what they hope will become an annual event.

A number of events and activities will be featured as part of the dedication of an information display about Col. Bower at the Portage County Airport's Flight Center on S.R. 44 in Shalersville, just north of Ravenna.

Planned events include:

A 5K run.

A one-mile memorial walk in honor of all U.S. veterans.

Free admission to showings of "Rising Above," a 10-minute film about the Tuskegee Airmen and the famous Red Tails fighter pilots.

Free Young Eagle flights for kids ages 8 to 17 (preregistration will be required).

A fly-in and safety seminar for the East Central Ohio Pilots Association.

Live big band and swing music by the Garrettones.

Displays of classic airplanes and cars.

With the number of World War II veterans decreasing daily, Siwik said he hopes to make a presentation on Bower and the Doolittle Raiders available year-round to classrooms and community groups. Siwik plans to attend the 71st and final reunion of Doolittle Raiders this April in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Bower was the last surviving pilot from the famous raid. Born in Ravenna, he attended Hiram College and Kent State University from 1934 to 1936 and served with the Ohio National Guard 107th Cavalry from 1934 to 1938. He graduated from the Army Air Force Flying School in 1940 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant USAAF on Oct. 4, 1940 with a rating of Army Aviator. He was serving with the 17th Bombardment Group at McChord Field in Washington when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He volunteered and was chosen for the mission planned and led by Lt. Col. James "Jimmy" Doolittle to bomb military targets on the Japanese home islands.

Because the 16 bombers could not land on the carrier, the pilots continued toward China after bombing the targets. Of the 80 crew members who took off, 11 were either captured or killed. The rest ultimately returned to the United States. After the war Bower continued in the Air Force before retiring to Boulder, Colo., where he was deeply involved in his community.

Information on the Doolittle raid and the men who carried it out can be found at www.doolittleraider.com.

Details on the center and the dedication events can be found at the center's website: www.bowercenter.com.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1125 or msever@recordpub.com

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  • Bill Bower is my Mother's cousin and we have family pictures with him when he came to Ravenna. Not only was he an excellent aviator, he was an exceptional and humble person. Nice to see him getting local recognition.