Commentary: Mike Crouse, Leon Bowman Were Definition of What It Is to Be a Rotarian


As a new board year begins for the Twin Cities Rotary Club, it’s with heavy hearts and immense pride that we reflect back on the members lost in the previous year and the legacy they leave behind.

For many years, Leon Bowman had been a major force in the Twin Cities Rotary Club and within our local community. He owned Kresky Auto Repair and Electric, served on the Centralia City Council and was a board member for the Chamber of Commerce and many other organizations.

In recent years, no club projects excited and pleased Leon more than the building of ramps for those who were injured veterans, had suffered trauma or stroke or had some debilitating condition. Leon was a hard worker and knew how to build just about anything. The ramps were a source of deep satisfaction for him.

When Leon knew his days were numbered, he spoke to several club members about an idea to take an inventory of his considerable workshop and remove all of the tools that would be useful for future ramp projects in the years to come.

While discussing where to store the wonderful donation of tools, the idea surfaced to buy a small utility trailer to permanently house and easily transport them from one worksite to the next. The ideal trailer was found and, after passing the hat at a meeting, enough money was raised to not only buy the new trailer but to have it professionally wrapped, labeling it as “Leon’s Team from Twin Cities Rotary.”

This was a major honor for Leon and his family. Every time that trailer is used by our club to help another family, we will be reminded that Leon is no longer with us and we will miss his fellowship and hard work. We will also smile as we remember him, because for a number of Twin City Rotarians, there was no finer friend.

As a Rotarian, Leon served as club president in 2007-2008, then served as an assistant district governor. Of course the year his wife, Rose, was the district governor, he worked tirelessly to support her.

Mike Crouse was club president the year prior to Leon. Shortly after becoming president, Mike’s wife, Susan, passed away. Leon graciously stepped in for Mike until his return. And in short order, Mike did return as president.

It was a shock to us all when Mike was suddenly gone. He’d been at a Rotary meeting the day before.

As it turned out, it would be our last in-person gathering for some time as we turned back to Zoom for virtual meetings due to the imposed quarantine restrictions last July. So those in attendance count their blessings for getting to see Mike’s ever-present smile and witness his enthusiasm for life and service, one last time.

“It was never about Mike,” recalled friend and longtime Rotarian Larry McGee. “It was about Rotary and those he was trying to serve. He was unselfish and had no personal agenda.”

If you volunteered to help with something, Mike was typically always there. Nobody was as actively committed to Rotary projects and fundraisers as he was. If he wasn’t heading up the project, he was an active participant.

Mike served as the representative from our club to the local Boy Scout troops. No one did more to connect the Scouts and Rotary. He actively supported the Rotaract Club at Centralia College and served as a mentor at W.F. West High School for years, preparing students to better prepare for their future.

Nobody in the Twin Cities Club had as many years in Rotary as Mike. He’d been an active member of Twin Cities Rotary Club since 1990. Prior to that, he was a member of a Rotary club in Oregon, where he’d also served as president.

Mike also was involved in Rotary at the district level. District 5020 is the largest in the Western Hemisphere with about 4,600 members. He was the assistant district governor for three years, providing assistance and guidance to the seven clubs in his area.

Mike was also a passionate photographer and a retired publisher. Well known in the logging community as the publisher of Loggers World and Log Trucker, he used that opportunity to get out in nature and put his photography skills to use.

Mike Crouse and Leon Bowman were the definition of what it is to be a Rotarian. Despite life’s challenges, they were there to serve humanity, improve the world and their community.

We should all look to them as mentors and strive to follow in their footsteps.