David Allender Bowerman, a popular mechanic and longtime owner of Ruxton Service Center, who repaired cars, plowed driveways and assisted stranded motorists for more than 50 years, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Jan. 6 at his Lutherville home. He was 73.
Mr. Bowerman was born in Baltimore and raised on Labelle Avenue in Ruxton. He was a 1952 graduate of Towson High School, where he studied auto mechanics.
"From his earliest days, his passion for cars was all-consuming, and when he was a youngster, he dismantled and reassembled his go-cart," said a son, Mark E. Bowerman of Philadelphia.
Mr. Bowerman was 15 years old when he began working for Ernest W. Gill, owner of Gill's Garage on Bellona Avenue in Ruxton - and except for serving in the Army from 1956 to 1957 - worked no where else until his death.
After Mr. Gill's retirement in 1983, Mr. Bowerman purchased the business that through the years sold Esso, Exxon, Chevron, Texaco and Shell oil products.
Tall and lanky, and often wearing a seaman's knit watch cap in the winter months, Mr. Bowerman was a much beloved figure in Ruxton, where residents could always count on him coming to their rescue when their cars wouldn't start, if they had been in an accident, or fixing something as mundane as a flat tire.
"Dave was a real all-American hometown boy and the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. He always had a big smile and really knew his business," said Steve Myer, who grew up across from the service station, and became a longtime customer.
"He was an excellent and practical mechanic who knew a problem was either fuel-, spark plug- or compression-based. I never brought in a car that he couldn't fix," he said.
"He was a highly resourceful, practical mechanic and a businessman of impeccable integrity. He exuded trustworthiness and cheerfulness," his son said.
In 1977, Michael J. Mozelack began working as a part-time mechanic for Mr. Bowerman, and two years later he was full-time. "He was a wiz at everything and an incredibly honest man. He wasn't one to oversell stuff just to make a profit," Mr. Mozelack said. "He was so dedicated that he never retired. The station was his hobby."
In addition to servicing autos, Mr. Bowerman also held towing licenses from the state and Baltimore County, and was virtually on 24-hour call.
He also operated a snowplowing business, and among his 100 clients were many Ruxton-area doctors, nurses and other rescue personnel, whom he made a priority because he knew they had to get to their hospitals and offices.
"There's a great story about Dave and a snowplow that had engine failure during a big storm. He was able to put a new engine in the truck and get it back on the road within 24 hours," Mr. Mozelack said.
Mr. Bowerman had a soft spot in his heart for high school kids interested in mechanics. He gave them part-time or summer jobs, and was proud when they became professional mechanics.
"Some have stayed with the business, and some of were just passing through," his son said.
"He treated us all as family," Mr. Mozelack said.
Baltimore Magazine recognized Mr. Bowerman's business as "Baltimore's Best Service Station" in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Diagnosed with ALS nearly two years ago, Mr. Bowerman continued coming to the station until his illness robbed him of the ability to work on autos.
He never lost his appreciation for the cars of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s and, for much of his adult life, owned two 1934 Dodges - one a convertible and the other a sedan. The convertible, which had the exact manufacture date as his birthday, was the car he had driven before going into the Army.
"He longed to fully restore it, but that dream was put on perpetual hold, first by his commitment to work, then by his devotion to his family," his son said.
Mr. Bowerman was also an avid student of World War II and enjoyed doing crossword puzzles and listening to the music of Jimmy "the Singing Brakeman" Rodgers and the Carter family.
He was a longtime active parishioner of the Church of the Nativity, 20 E. Ridgely Road, Timonium, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Feb. 8.
Also surviving are his wife of 49 years, the former Barbara Ann Ashley; another son, David L. Bowerman of Finksburg; two daughters, Deborah Bowerman Smith of Catonsville and Diane B. Wasowicz of Timonium; three brothers, J. Biays Bowerman of Dubuque, Iowa, Daniel Bowerman of Oella and John Bowerman of Frederick; a sister, Theodocia Duffy of Hillsdale, N.J.; and seven grandchildren.