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The Amazing Daniel Bowman

February 5, 2022

Another Way for week of January 28, 2022

The Amazing Daniel Bowman

My friend Dan Bowman, blind since the age of 13, has never left that stop him. Now 80 years old, on a snowy afternoon I emailed him about his recent book and asked about how he and wife were doing.

“I shoveled a little snow this morning and ‘a little’ is quite enough,” he emailed back.

Shoveling snow is bad enough when you’re older and perpetually worried about falling. But getting out in it and doing actual shoveling when you’re blind is astonishing. That could describe Dan’s life in a nutshell: surprising at every turn. Now he’s written a book that is incredibly helpful for those of us who are “sight dependent,” (a term he uses teasingly): From Sight to Insight:A Mennonite Farm Boy’s Adventures Through Blindness to Living and Seeing Without Vision (Masthof Press, 2021).

Dan Bowman’s memoir

I first learned about Dan where I worked. So when we bought a used piano, I called and asked him to tune it. I was impressed by his record-keeping on a Brailler—a machine that punches Braille dots into paper to use as he contacted piano clients. An adept businessman, he would line up three or four appointments a day and tell clients that he could knock a few dollars off the fee if we provided transportation to his next gig. It saved him calling a taxi. He did not want to depend on his wife to drive him, especially in the early years caring for their three daughters.

I enjoyed driving him—not just to save a few dollars but because he is a fascinating conversationalist, bringing up his own questions as well as responding to my thoughts on everything from world events, to faith, to the next election, to my family. His first question in our house was usually, “Ok, which way to the bathroom?” He patiently taught his clients how to lead him: “Let me take hold of your elbow so you can safely lead rather than being led by a blind person!”

One day tuning our piano, I moved our daughter’s telescope out of his way. He expressed amazement that a sixth-grader was exploring the night sky, and wishing he could do that. Every time I’d see him or he would come tune our piano, he would ask whether we still had that telescope.

For the early years of his life, he was able to see—poor eyesight which gradually was lost, but could still see some things with his remaining side vision. He used those early years to the fullest, observing and helping his father and mother and siblings on the farm with whatever he could do. He managed driving the tractor in fields of corn rows, because the rows helped him guide the tractor straight.

Dan watched his father repair equipment or do woodworking, helping as he could. After he and his wife owned their own home, he built a woodshed. In his mind’s eye, because of his first 13 years, he could visualize the bigger picture of what he was doing, a gift for which he is forever grateful. But, “I’ve never seen my wife’s face or my girls’ faces” he told a local reporter interviewing him about his book.

He went to the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind from middle school on up. I found it amusing how his friends, some of whom still had some sight, would be peppered with questions from those completely blind, about which girls at the school were the best looking—just like teenagers do everywhere.

In addition to tuning and repairing pianos, Dan can play like a dream on organ or piano—which was always my favorite part of his tunings. He’d fill our house with a rhapsody of sound. He also marvels at technology which has made it much easier for him to access the world online. He ends his book with lots of solid insights and tips for seeing persons in understanding the world of those without the gift of sight.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this fascinating book from a library, bookstore, or numerous booksellers online.

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Do you know someone like Dan? What have you learned from your friend? I’d love to hear stories, insights, precious memories, challenges!

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Check these links for more pictures/stories and a documentary about Dan.

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My husband and I enjoy participating in a local Lions Club, which has as one of it’s missions working on sight and sound needs (among others). See Lions Clubs International which has clubs all over the world.

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

4 Comments
  1. Melodie, thanks for introducing me to Daniel. He is taking advantage of his heightened sense of hearing because of lack of sight. I enjoy when our piano tuner finished up with a rhapsody of music, hitting most of the keys he adjusted.

    Reading his story from start to finish, I’d say his greatest quality it resilience. He has it in spades. And he is able to “visualize the bigger picture.” I want to check out the best source for getting his book.

  2. Thank you for this endorsement, Marian! Even without reading the book yet. 🙂 I should add that Dan wears hearing aids, too, I’m not sure when he had to begin using them. It is probably in the book but I’m forgetting. If you get a chance to read the book, the theme of resilience that you’ve already sensed, is indeed abundant (I like your spades quip). May we all learn the gift of resilience.

  3. Dan sounds like an amazing and inspirational man. I’m so glad to ‘meet him’ through your blog. I’ll definitely check out his book. It sounds like I could learn a lot from Dan and his words.

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