August 8th, 1918- December 7th, 2020
We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Ralph Bowen at the age of 98.
A member of the Snipe Clan, Ralph was raised in the Coldspring community and lived in Jimersontown for many years.
Ralph Bowen will be remembered for many things, but service to others was a thread that ran throughout his life. It is ironic that the Creator called Ralph home on December 7, because it was the historic events of that date in 1941 that would change, and in many ways, shape Ralph’s life.
As we all know, the United States military base at Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, killing more than 2,400 Americans. That attack signaled the United States entry into World War II and elicited an overwhelming response from American men and women everywhere. Their bravery saved the world and gave birth to the notion of “The Greatest Generation.”
One of those who stood up to serve his country following the Pearl Harbor attack was Ralph Bowen, who enlisted in the U.S. Army, eventually completing combat missions across Tunisia, Africa and Europe as an aerial gunner.
When the fate of the world as we knew it hung in the balance, Ralph left home, driven only by a sense of duty and service, and fought to defend, save and restore freedom. As a member of the 15th Air Force’s 450th Bombardment Group, 723rd Bombardment Squadron, he and his fellow soldiers helped to liberate France and Europe from German occupation.
Ralph was the oldest living member of the Seneca Nation and the last surviving World War II Veteran from the Allegany Territory.
After nearly four years in the Army, Ralph returned to the United States in November 1945. He received many accolades and honors for his military service, including the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, in 2019. He is the first Seneca and only second Native American to receive the appointment of Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honor.
Earlier this year, not long after his 98th birthday, Ralph was officially inducted in to the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame in a ceremony held on our Allegany Territory.
As we know, Ralph Bowen later went on to serve the Seneca Nation and his community with the same energy and commitment he displayed throughout his years in the Army.
Ralph served five terms as a member of the Seneca Nation Council, helping to lead our government in serving the needs of the Seneca people. He also served as a Seneca Nation Marshal, a Peacemakers Court Judge, and a Surrogate Court Judge. Ralph was also pastor at the Red House Baptist Church.
He was a dedicated family man, mentor and dear friend to many. Through his life of service, he set a sterling example for others to follow.
The Seneca Nation mourns Ralph’s passing and, on behalf of all Seneca people, we extend our deepest sympathies to Ralph’s family and friends, especially his daughters Jacquie and Rebecca and his son, Dennis.
Let us all keep Ralph in our prayers and reflect on the example and lessons he gave throughout his life. His was truly a life well-lived.