Thomasina T. “Tommie” Bowie, a retired Baltimore City Public Schools teacher whose diabetic infant daughter was the inspiration for her to help establish a camp for diabetic children in Glyndon, died in her sleep Aug. 23, 2020, at the Augsburg Lutheran Home in Lochearn.
The former longtime Druid Hill Avenue resident was 94.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting her death just now as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the wish of Mrs. Bowie’s family to hold a memorial service that could be attended by family and friends without fear of being exposed to COVID-19.
“I wanted to wait to see if there would be an opportunity to give Mom the church service she so richly deserved,” wrote her daughter, Sharon Allison Bowie, of Pikesville, in an email.
“As the vaccinations began, family and friends were being vaccinated so the opportunity then opened to start planning Mom’s service,” Ms. Bowie wrote. “I thought to celebrate her life in the best way was to give her a memorial service at Union Baptist Church where she had been a member for more than 68 years and where she would be surrounded by family and friends who loved her and to celebrate the life of the wonderful loving person she was.”
The former Thomasina Tupponce, daughter of Thomas Tupponce, owner of a plastering business, and his wife, Hester Tupponce, a homemaker, was born in Washington, the fourth of seven children.
Her parents had lived in West Point, Virginia, and wanting a better life for their children, moved to New York City and Pittsburgh, before returning to West Point.
Known as “Tommie,” she received her early education at West Point Colored Elementary School and the Beverly Allen High School, which were the only segregated schools in town.
After graduating from high school in 1943, she followed two older sisters to Bennett College in Greenville, North Carolina, and then she determined it would be best to transfer to a college that offered the major she desired, so she entered Virginia State College, now Virginia State University, in Petersburg, Virginia, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1946 in physical education.
From 1948 to 1950, she taught at Central High School in Charlotte Court House, Virginia, where she also coached the girls basketball team and accompanied the school choir on the piano.
In 1951, she joined the faculty of Robert Moton High School, which was also a segregated high school, in Westminster, where she taught for a year before going to work in 1952 for the Baltimore Transit Co. as an inspector. Her route was from Baltimore to Westminster, where her job entailed “riding incognito on buses from Baltimore City to Westminster to ensure that drivers were doing their jobs,” her daughter wrote in a biographical profile of her mother.
Mrs. Bowie began teaching in Baltimore City Public Schools in 1955 when she began teaching physical education at Charles Hamilton Houston Junior High School and subsequently at Carrollton Junior High School, and finally at Harlem Park Junior High School, which she retired from in 1985.
Lucretia H. Billups, a retired Baltimore City Public Schools administrator, had been a close friend of Mrs. Bowie’s since 1961.
“My husband and Tommie were assigned to the same school and we had other connections,” recalled Mrs. Billups, who retired in 1993, and lives in Mount Washington. “We were both from Virginia and we had both been in the same wedding but didn’t know it at the time. We joined Union Baptist Church and our children attended Grace and St. Peter’s School and we became extended family.”
The two families spent the holidays, attended social activities and went on vacations together, Mrs. Billups said.
“Tommie was a very sincere and wise person who you could talk to in confidence and get good advice in return,” she said. “She was a very sophisticated and stylish person, and was truly a friend to lots and lots of people.”
Mrs. Bowie met her future husband, Roger W. Bowie Sr., as an infant, because both families were very close friends, and her grandmother, a midwife, delivered Roger and his three older brothers.
Even though Mr. Bowie’s family moved to Baltimore in 1932, the families kept in touch. In 1953, they married, and later settled into a home in the 2000 block of Druid Hill Ave., where they raised their son and daughter.
The couple’s lives were changed when their daughter, who was 16 months old, was diagnosed with diabetes.
Mrs. Bowie became an active member and the first African American president of the Baltimore chapter of the Women’s League for Diabetic Children and Adults, and worked diligently to help establish a camp for diabetic children. Camp Glyndon was located in the village of Glyndon founded by Dr. Abraham A. Silver, a diabetes specialist who was head of Sinai Hospital’s diabetic camp.
Mrs. Bowie personally traveled throughout the city and state raising money for the construction of the camp, which opened in 1969.
One of the goals of the camp was helping to educate children, ages 5 to 16, about living with their disease, diabetes mellitus.
“Camp Glyndon, a 48-acre farm on Insulin Lane in Baltimore County, provides regular camp facilities — trampoline, swimming pool, tents, bunks — all clustered around the dispensary,” reported The Evening Sun in 1970. “The youngsters ages 5 to 16, assemble there about 8 o’clock for insulin injections. By the end of the season all 532 children who have spent two to three weeks at the camp can give the injections themselves.”
Mrs. Bowie had been an active member of Union Baptist Church for more than 68 years and was involved with many of its ministries. She sang in the Sanctuary and Senior choirs for 60 years, “bringing an abundance of happiness and laughter to both choirs while making full use of her keen sense of humor and quick wit as appropriate,” her daughter wrote.
She was known for her powerful alto voice and often was called upon to help a section by playing a note or two on the piano for pitch purposes. “She always sang the correct notes from which others could take their cues should they have need,” her daughter wrote.
Her church factored in another longtime friendship.
“We were blessed to be invited to join the church by three families,” said James E. Coleman, a Quarry Lake resident, and a retired Baltimore Community College math professor, who sang in the choir with Mrs. Bowie.
“She was an alto and really stood out, and contributed so much to the choir, especially the alto section,” Professor Coleman said. “She was very serious-minded but she liked to laugh a lot, and we loved to hear her pray.”
As a member of the Queen Esther Circle, she contributed her much sought-after homemade rolls for its annual spring bazaar. “She never made enough, for those she made sold out very quickly,” Ms. Sharon Allison Bowie said.
In 1996, she and Zelma Greene were co-chairs of Women’s Month at church, and Mrs. Bowie later received Faithful Service and Outstanding and Continuous Service awards. “She was a very spiritual person who was very involved with the church and our outreach activities for years,” Mrs. Billups said.
Professor Coleman said two other families who were not members of Union Baptist Church, became part of the circle.
“Our five families spent holidays together. We went to weddings, graduation and anniversaries, and saw and supported each other through the sad times. It was such good fellowship,” he said. “She was very friendly and kind but could be direct.”
Mrs. Bowie enjoyed reading, traveling and playing bridge and pinochle.
“We were fortunate that we found one another and in all those years, there was never an argument or cross word,” Mrs. Billups said. “When we could no longer get together, we talked every evening on the phone immediately after ‘Jeopardy’ at 7:30. We called in ‘Tommie Time’ and then we’d share our day.”
For her last two years, Mrs. Bowie had lived at Brookdale Senior Living in Pikesville, where she survived COVID and three bouts of pneumonia, her daughter said.
Her husband of 53 years, who was a printer at the Government Printing Office in Washington, died in 2009.
A memorial service will be held Aug. 21 at her church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave. The family hour is from 11 a.m. until noon, when the service will begin.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a son, Roger W. Bowie Jr. of Redwood City, California; and two brothers, Dillard Tupponce of Richmond, Virginia, and John Tupponce of Newport News, Virginia.