Beloved Teacher Dead At Age 75

Anita Campbell
County Reporter
The Warsaw community was saddened to hear of the passing of former Warsaw elementary school teacher Martha Bowden this past week. As a young teacher, Martha Bowden had no idea that she had been born with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) but by the time she did she was also a mother of a little boy. After her diagnosis, her two year old son George was also tested and it was discovered that he too carried the PKD gene.
Martha went ahead and lived her life the way she wanted to with the knowledge that some day her kidneys would fail her and she would need a transplant.  She and her husband Ken, who taught physical education in the Warsaw district, made the decision to not have any other children since another pregnancy would be hard on her body as well as living with the chance that any other children they would have could also possibly inherit PKD.
Then in 2000 while teaching in Colorado, Martha’s kidneys began to fail. She suffered from severe back pain as well as bleeding and frequent UTI’s. It became apparent to her doctors that she needed a transplant.  Many of her fellow teachers as well as parents of her students came forward to be tested as possible donors.  Martha’s brother was one of those who was tested and since they shared the same blood type, he seemed to be the likely candidate; however, through the testing the doctors discovered that he had a problem with his kidneys which made him an unsuitable candidate.
Just when Martha was ready to begin dialysis, one of her teaching friends came by her room to announce that she was going to “give” Martha a kidney.  She had been tested and was a perfect match for Martha.  A week later they were in the hospital and Martha received the most precious gift from a friend, a kidney.  This gave Martha several more years of life. 
After her retirement from the classroom, she and her husband Ken moved back to Warsaw.  Although her health began to fail, she never lost her fighting spirit which inspired her many students.  She is remembered fondly by those students.
“Mrs. Bowden was one of my favorite teachers,” recalled Karla Blackwell Szczygiel. “She always had ways to push our minds without us knowing it.  From the logic puzzles to finding out about our family history by making us write to a family member to see what life was like in their eyes growing up in their era. The most enjoyable moment was when we had Friday afternoon special classes in seventh grade and Jackie and I chose running.  Of course we were the only girls trying to out run the boys. All through town on scavenger hunts or around the north school track but if my memory serves me right we always came in second behind Rodney Red Wing.  The last time I saw her was after church last time I was home and she specifically asked to make sure they were invited again to our next class reunion.”
Kelli Estes Daleske echoed Szczgiel’s sentiments.
“Mrs. Bowden had a zest for life,” Daleske said.  “She always had a smile on her face and a kind word just when you needed it.”
Martha’s colleagues remembered her fondly as well.
“Martha was one of the best writing teachers I had the privilege of working with in my career,” recalled Patty Slavens.  “Even after she moved to Colorado, she continued to inspire me by sending me the titles of professional books.  I drove all the way to the CMSU bookstore to purchase In The Middle because Martha said it was a must have for all literacy teachers.”
Former Warsaw R-9 Superintendent Dr. John Boise recruited Martha to teach in the Warsaw district.  “I was the Hallsville Elementary principal and Martha was the best teacher in my building so after I was hired as the Warsaw superintendent I called Martha and persuaded her to come to Warsaw,” said Boise. 
 Martha was well known for her funny stories and Boise recalled one she told him about her time at the University of Arkansas.
“Martha said that the University of Arkansas Band was proud of the fact that they had a 100 member band.  During marching season, they were one person short of the 100 so Martha was recruited to play the piccolo. Martha couldn’t play the piccolo but she marched with the band and pretended to play so they could keep their status as a 100 member band,” Boise said.
 Enterprise Publisher James White recalled that he could expect a call from Mrs. Bowden if he failed to run the crossword puzzle in the Enterprise. 
If you wish to honor Martha, you may donate to the National Kidney Foundation in  care  of the Reser Funeral Home, P.O. Box 910, Warsaw, MO 65355.