Virginia Bowie, age 81, of Port Vue, died March 23, 2020, at home. Born June 18, 1938, in McKeesport, she was the daughter of the late Edward and Ann Ruth (Tukot) Laughlin, and wife of the late Charles Bowie.
Virginia graduated from McKeesport Area High School and continued her education at McKeesport Vo-Tech School. She worked as a beautician and owned a hair salon. She also worked for Jefferson Hospital and for the Salvation Army of McKeesport. Virginia was a member of Port Vue Methodist Church and FOD club. She was also a member of Clairton AARP and several card clubs. Virginia enjoyed volunteering her time to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
She is survived by daughter, Laura (Gregory) Matta, of McKeesport; grandchildren, Matthew Gribschaw, Steven Matta, Grace (Robert) Rump, Alexander (Alexandria) Matta, and Mark Matta; great-grandchildren, Nathan and Maxton Gribschaw, Santino, Alivia, Jackson, Lillian Rump; sister, Isabelle (Grant) Jones; son-in-law, Gregory Gribschaw and several nieces/nephews and great-nieces/nephews.
She was preceded in death by a daughter, Marjorie Gribschaw, and granddaughter, Beth Ann Gribschaw.
Arrangements were entrusted to Willig Funeral Home & Crematory. To ensure the safety of family and friends, the family has chosen to not have any traditional services.
Memories and condolences may be shared www.willigfuneralcremationservices.com. Memorial contributions are suggested to the Port Vue United Methodist Church, 1565 Washington Blvd., McKeesport, PA 15133 or the Salvation Army McKeesport Food Bank, 821 Walnut St. McKeesport, PA 15133.
A note from Pastor Hyung-Suk Joe
As a pastor it's one of my duties to officiate funeral services for my people, my friends of the church. It is always hard to write a memorial, but it is harder to do so for someone like my friend, Jean.
When I reflect on my experiences of Jean, I cannot help but think of her life with her late beloved husband, Chuck. Jean and Chuck were such a wonderful couple. When I think of their loving relationship, I can imagine two hands interlocking fingers---two hands that fold in an act of prayer. The fingertips touch, but the hands can create space, like a little tent. Such a space is the space created by love. The life and love of Jean and Chuck created a new, open space where God's love can be revealed to anyone around them.
What I mean is Jean and Chuck always loved each other, and their love for one another did not stay there but expanded. First to a circle of their close family, of course, and then that circle became broader and wider, including all their friends, neighbors and even strangers whom they met each day on their life journey.
I know how much Jean and Chuck loved their children and all their family. They cared for them; they were always there for them. Jean often told me whenever I visited there how much she was blessed with her beautiful children.
I am also blessed to be able to say that I am one of those who belong to their broader and wider circle. On the first Sunday when my family and I came to serve the Port Vue UMC, Jean and Chuck welcomed us so heartily. Since then our friendship grew, and we became good friends. Jean and Chuck always encouraged and supported me even when I made a mistake. They stood by me who felt weary and disappointed and gave me encouraging words that were enough to make me feel comforted and confident.
I cannot forget that day. About a month ago, I had a chance to visit Jean who was in McKeesport Hospital. She was very weak and fragile. She had some health issues including breathing problems. I could sense it was really a tough time for her, not just physically, but emotionally too. I gently held her hand, and we prayed together. We hugged, and when I was about to leave, Jean said to me, "Pastor Joe, I love you. Chuck and I always loved you. I hope you can be with us for a long time." What she said meant a lot to me. I was both humbled and encouraged at that moment.
One day there were six ladies in the church office folding the newsletter. Darlene, one of her friends, had concerns about an upcoming treatment her doctor had ordered. She did not have anyone available to bring her home from an outpatient procedure she needed at that time. She explained that her sister could not take her and she may have to reschedule.
Before Darlene could take another breath, Jean immediately spoke up and said to Darlene, "Don't you worry I will come and take you, I will stay with you while you're in surgery and I will bring you home when you are done. Don't worry I will also get your medications if you have any."
That was Jean, who was always caring and not give a second thought of helping another person.
As Jean loved others, she loved God and had a strong faith. I do remember Jean and Chuck always faithfully attended the worship not only on Sundays but on Wednesdays. After Chuck passed away and Jean was left alone, it didn't stop her coming for worship each and every week, even though it was physically difficult.
On one Sunday I saw her sitting on the chair in the back of the sanctuary where ushers usually sat. Holding an oxygen tank, she was breathing hard. She was required to take an oxygen tank wherever she went because of her breathing issues at that time. Jean smiled at me and said, "From now on this is my seat. I will worship here because I need a seat close to an electrical plug for my oxygen tank."
Jean was a woman of faith, and her faith was not just a theoretical assent to a set of beliefs. No, she tried to live by faith in her everyday life. For many years she served people in need in the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and also in our church Food Pantry too. For years she had taught in the Sunday School and served FOD and also various church committees. She had also been one of the newsletter ladies. I know Jean sought every opportunity to serve God, using her talents, time, energies and resources and so to touch the lives of many people in the name of Jesus.
I still vividly remember the moment my heart was touched by what Jean said in a Bible Study class. She usually didn't express herself much during the discussion time, but on that day she shared firmly her faith with the class. O Gosh, I wish I could remember the exact words she said, so I can paraphrase it. What she shared with us is "God loves us so much and so gave his son for us so that through him we have a new life. He has always walked with me. I know, so I trust in Him no matter what!"
"I trust in Him no matter what!"
When I heard Jean expressing her faith so firmly, I almost shouted immediately, "Amen!"
What a great faith! It was not a shallow expression, but her faith was firmly grounded in her experiences of God's presence in her life.
Jean went through a lot. Well, I cannot imagine how she managed herself when she lost her beloved husband Chuck and her oldest daughter Marge, in the same year, 2018. Those things would have broken a lot of people, but not Jean. I know she suffered a lot from those incidents, but I have never seen her complaining or acting sorry for herself. Instead, she carried on gracefully because she truly trusted in God who is always with us. Isn't it that faith we all need in this changing time when we suffer from grief, illnesses, or any kind of life issues..., and especially now when we all are shaken by a pandemic?
Indeed, Jean trusted in God more than anything and was ready to accept whatever God willed for her. She was truly a woman of faith who showed love, kindness, gentleness and the other fruit of the Spirit through her faith despite all the burdens of life.
Now it’s time to say goodbye to Jean. I know it's not easy for the family and friends, including myself, to surrender her into God’s care and keeping. We can begin to let her go when we thank God that she was part of our lives. We thank God for the good that God allowed us to see and experience in and through her. We thank God for our memories of Jean and the time we spent together with her.
We also can bear witness together to the truth of this---our beloved one is no longer with us in the flesh; but in a better place---the place where there is no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, no more death. Jesus says in the gospel of John 14,
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also."
That is the promise that Jesus has made, "I go to prepare a place for you." Knowing that Jean is now in peace in her eternal home where God has prepared for her and so her eternal life has just begun, we can be not only comforted, but joyful and celebrate her life here as well as hers new life living in God’s house. Amen.
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