Geraldine Bowers was a short, slight woman, but an absolute giant in the bountiful world of Bix.
Gerri Bowers, 83, of Davenport – who worked tirelessly for decades to promote public awareness and appreciation of jazz legend Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke — died on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
She was born just seven and a half years after the Aug. 6. 1931 death of the Davenport native, cornet and piano player, and composer, and now Bowers will share her eternal rest at the same cemetery where Bix is – Oakdale Memorial Gardens, 2501 Eastern Ave., Davenport.
“Bix was her life,” Melissa Boone, one of her three daughters, said Wednesday. She’s proud that Bowers literally co-wrote THE book on Bix, 2009’s “Bix: The Davenport Album” (706 pages), with Rich Johnson and Jim Arpy.
“I don’t know of anyone who loved Bix the man than Gerri Bowers,” Steve Trainor, immediate past president of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Society, said Tuesday. “She accepted him and his faults, but was the first to defend him as she knew so much about what made him tick. She had gone deep into the Davenport Library archives. She lived and breathed Bix.”
“She was a tireless worker while on the Bix Society’s Board of Directors and even after she left the Board,” Trainor said. “We sell special T-shirts, new each year, at the annual jazz festival. Who folded those? Gerri.”
The Bix Jazz Society Facebook page posted: “Gerri was an avid researcher, supporter, and promoter of Bix’s legacy. We honor her dedication to both the Bix Jazz Society & Bix Museum. She will be missed.”
Boone said her mom got interested in Bix from friends she hung out with and started getting really active with the Bix Society (which formed in 1971) in the early ‘80s. She also was influential in getting the 1931 piano Bix had in his New York apartment to Davenport, which is a centerpiece in the Bix Museum (on the lower level of Common Chord, 2nd and Main streets).
“Gerri did so much for the Museum and the Society,” said Randy Sandke, veteran jazz trumpeter and Bix Museum board member. “Everyone loved her, and she accomplished things no one else could have. She was one of a kind, and I’ll miss her forever.”
“I’m so sorry to learn of Gerri’s passing,” said Jim Peterson of Davenport, a board member of both the Bix Society and Museum. “I called her last week to set up going to lunch, but she didn’t return my call, I was going to call her again today. I thought the world of her and admired her great knowledge of Bix and the Quad Cities. She and our mutual friend Rich Johnson were unbeatable in that knowledge AND they were both wonderful people.”
Nathaniel Kraft, the museum’s executive director, said Bowers must be praised for helping create the most comprehensive history on Bix’s family and his life here in Davenport. She was on the Bix Society’s Board of Directors for many years and was currently serving on the Bix Museum’s Board of Directors as board historian.
“She was a Bix Lives award winner, and rightly so,” Kraft said. “We are saddened to hear this news and send our condolences to the Bowers family. She lived ‘Bix,’ delving deep into the archives to learn everything about him, and taught anyone who wanted to know about him. She was a giant in the world of Bix — and now she’s with him.”
Private family service
A private family service will be held at Oakdale Memorial Gardens in Davenport. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society (129 N. Main St., Davenport, IA 52801) or a charity of the donor’s choice.
Bowers was born Feb. 15, 1939 in Centerville, Iowa and in 1956 was united in marriage to Kent L. Bowers in Bettendorf. He preceded her in death on Oct. 28, 2022, at age 86.
Gerri spent countless hours at Oakdale Memorial Gardens restoring, documenting, and gathering background information for the many orphans’ graves at the cemetery, according to her obituary. She also was a vital part of the care of the unknown soldier’s graves as well.
Gerri and Kent were avid supporters and members of the Bix Jazz Society where Gerri served as historian for many years and the Catfish Jazz Society as well. She also spent many years serving as genealogist at the Davenport Library.
Those left to honor her memory include her daughters, Stephanie (Dave) Davis of Rock Island; Melissa (Jim Moreno) Boone of Bettendorf and Stacey (Scott) Zindel of Davenport; her grandchildren, Sara (Mike) Toliver of Bettendorf, Kent (Christina) Boone of Davenport and Stephanie (K.C.) Knutson in Wisconsin; and her four great-grandchildren.
In addition to her husband, Gerri was preceded in death by her seven brothers and one sister.
Online condolences may be shared with Gerri’s family at the McGinnis-Chambers Funeral Home website.