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In Memory of . . . Janet H. Bowering (1930-2014)

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Rev. Dr. Janet Hartzell Bowering died on July 17, 2014 at the age of 83.  Jan was born on December 7, 1930 to Allen Reiff Hartzell and Catharine May Weiser. She graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts. She went on to receive an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 1998.

Rev. Bowering was ordained on January 30, 1955 by The North Carolina Universalist Convention at The Universalist Church of Outlaw’s Bridge of Seven Springs, NC. In 1957, she was called to the Universalist Church of Kinston, NC; she served as part-time minister in Kinston until 1959, and as part-time minister at First Parish of Tyngsborough, MA from 1977 to 1979. She then served as minister of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill from 1979 to 1996, and upon her retirement in 1996, she was voted Minister Emerita.

Jan was passionate about religious education and viewed it as integral to ministry.  She was certified as a Religious Educator by the St. Lawrence Theological School in 1953, and while attending, she studied under Angus MacLean. Jan and her late husband, Rev. Vinton Bowering, worked with youth in churches, service projects and camps throughout their ministry. Jan served the Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill, MA, as Director of Religious Education from 1974 to 1979. She worked alongside her husband, who served as minister to the congregation from 1974 to 1979. In 1979, Rev. Vinton Bowering suffered a fatal heart attack and the church received special permission to by-pass a search process and call Rev. Jan Bowering as their minister.

Rev. Bowering’s ministry of the UU Church of Haverhill, MA, reached far beyond the congregation and into the community at large. In 1977, Rev. Bowering offered use of the Haverhill UU church to the Calvary Baptist Church of Haverhill, MA, as the Calvary Baptist Church had suffered a devastating fire. She later offered the basement of the church as a shelter for homeless individuals, and the shelter remained there for three years.

Jan was active in many denominational organizations. She served the Mass Bay Chapter of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) as member, senior Good Offices team member, Nominating Committee member, and Fall Conference planning committee member; the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society as board member and president; the Church of the Larger Fellowship as board member and executive committee member; and the Continental Board of the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation. She was the first female member of the ministerial study group, The Fraters of the Wayside Inn, and held membership with the Cedar Hill Study Group, the Central Midwest Chapter of the UUMA, the Unitarian Universalist Retired Ministers and Partners Association, and the Unitarian Universalist Association Professional Support Services Committee. She was an enthusiastic supporter and promoter of the Clara Barton Camp for over fifty years.

Jan valued her Universalist roots, and found it important to preserve the Universalist legacy. She served the Board of the Universalist Heritage Foundation, the Massachusetts Association of Universalist Women, and the Massachusetts Universalist Convention. She was mentored by Rev. Edna Bruner, and inspired by both Edna and Rev. Olympia Brown. She was known far and wide for her dramatic portrayal of Rev. Brown, and she offered her portrayal more than forty times.  

Rev. Bowering ministered to the Universalist Church in Kinston, NC, right after the Supreme Court decision on integration went into effect. Her time in Kinston presented challenges that she readily accepted. She wrote,

“I remember one time we took the LRY [Liberal Religious Youth] to hear Harry Golden speak in Kinston, 22 miles away. We didn’t know, or we would have prepared the kids for non-segregated seating. Fortunately we arrived late, were ushered in to a lecture in progress and sat hastily wherever we could. Afterward we stopped for ice cream, two cars full of young people, and tried to sort out feelings. It was interesting that they mainly didn’t want their parents to know what happened lest they jeopardize their chances to go places and do things with Mr. and Mrs. Bowrin’ ’”


An avid traveler, Jan loved to explore new places and meet new people. She collected foreign dolls, purchased during her travels and given to her by friends and family. She was an amateur potter, a painter and a naturalist; she relished time spent with her family at their summer house in rural Maine.

Jan’s family remembers her as “extremely inquisitive,” and “very practical.” Her daughter, Diana Bowering, describes how her mother was quick to take action upon hearing of a problem, and lived with a mentality of “let’s not talk about it, let’s get down there and do something about it.” Jan was known as extremely hard working, and “wasn’t one to sit around.” Diana reports how even when hospitalized and suffering from a wandering mind, her mother said of the hospital stay, “In theory, I don’t think this is the best use of my time.”

Her surviving family members include her loving children, Dawn Jordan and companion, John Hyland, Diana Bowering, Alan Bowering and wife, Leslie.; granddaughter, Laura Morley and husband Matthew; and great-grandson, William Morley.

A Celebration of Life will be held on September 20th, 2014, at 1:00 P.M., at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill, 15 Kenoza Avenue, Haverhill, MA 01830. A potluck lunch hosted by the UU Church of Haverhill will follow. All are welcome. A memorial gathering was held from 4:00 to 7:00 P.M., on Saturday, July 26th at Driscoll Funeral Home, 309 South Main Street, Haverhill, MA 01835.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Clara Barton Camp, P.O. Box 356 North Oxford, MA 01537 (; Ferry Beach Park Association, 5 Morris Avenue, Saco, ME 04072 (; or Merrimack Valley Hospice of Home Health Foundation, Attn: Tammy Stott, 360 Merrimack Street, Building 9, Lawrence, MA 01843 (

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