Just hours before she died on Friday, Nov. 6, Tara Bowie was literally living her dream.
She was kayaking, on a solo trip at a lake near Cawston, posting pictures of the view to her Facebook page and lamenting – as she usually did – that the fish weren’t biting.
This year, she’d repeatedly told her crowd, was the best of her life.
That ended at 8 p.m when she was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 3.
The news shocked and deeply saddened family, friends and former newspaper colleagues across the country.
“Tara’s next big adventure was finding herself and living life to the fullest,” said her sister, Rhonda Carter.
Bowie was a Black Press journalist, editor of the Keremeos Review, and writer for the Similkameen Spotlight and Penticton Western News from 2014 to 2019.
She left the industry on sabbatical and spent that time taking huge, juicy bites out of life.
She travelled extensively, said friend Kim English, across the western provinces and abroad. Sometimes packing up her bags at the last minute and making up the itinerary as she went.
“She was an adventurer,” said English. “She wasn’t daunted by anything. If someone said, ‘Let’s go to the Yukon,’ at the drop of a hat Tara would say, ‘Yes, let’s go to the Yukon.’
“On a dime, she was ready for a road trip.”
English said Bowie fell “passionately and deeply in love” in B.C. after moving here six years ago from Ontario, where she last worked as a reporter for the daily Sentinel-Review in Woodstock.
The village of Keremeos felt her impact enormously.
In an interview on Nov. 9, fire chief Jordy Bosscha struggled for words to express how department volunteers, who were called out to the scene of her death, are trying to cope with the loss.
“She was always there to help us. She was always a supporter.”
Following the Keremeos area wildfires in 2018, Bowie organized an appreciation dinner for the firefighters, raising considerable funds for new equipment for the hall.
“I wanted to write something about Tara, but I’m not a wordsmith,” said Bosscha.
“When it is someone who was that close to us there are just so many emotions.”
Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer also had praise for the former editor.
“She was a warmhearted person, as a human being. And as a journalist, she always had an open mind and was fair.”
Her contributions to the community will be felt for years to come, he added, recalling it was Bowie who spearheaded a project to create and place banners along the main street, and who brought innovative, successful ideas to the Chamber of Commerce in her role as a director.
Bauer also spoke warmly of Bowie’s mother Nancy Birtch, whom he met several times when she visited from Ontario. During Birtch’s extended stays, her daughter usually took her along to the office on workdays.
When The Review office closed, Bowie worked from the Penticton Western News office. Her former editor Kristi Patton said she learned much from that opportunity.
“What I learned from Tara is that your value in life is not just defined by what you do as a career. We had many discussions about this after we both left the news business. Discussions about the difficulties that we, and many of our fellow journalists have, covering tragic situations. Discussions about how every accident, fire, court case etc. can leave a scar on you,” Patton wrote in a guest column for Black Press.
“I will forever be in remorse that I didn’t make more time to be around her shining light, the enormous energy and loud voice that was impossible to ignore in our newsroom. I will not forget the smile and the ear she offered even in the most stressful times.”
Hundreds of people have posted on social media, expressing their grief and admiration for Bowie.
They speak about her gift of empathy, and a heart the size of K-Mountain.
“Tara had the ability to genuinely enter people’s lives and circles of the community and form really deep friendships with people from all walks of life,” said English.
“She was super generous and curious, hilarious and thoughtful and incredibly tender-hearted.”
Bowie was a proud member of the LGBT community and made special efforts to connect with young people in that group.
“One of her most precious tokens was her rainbow ring and it was really important for her to wear that. The rainbow is a symbol of pride and she felt it was important, to let young people know that she was an ally,” expressed English.
Despite all the people in Bowie’s life her obituary, written by her sister, identifies her best friend as her dog Heddie.
Memorial services for Bowie are being planned in Ontario, and a private service will be held in the Similkameen Valley in the near future.
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