Remembering Ralph Bowley
Known for his infectious smile, his vigor and élan for life and public service, Fairfield Selectman Ralph Bowley's passing at the age of 66 brings a tremendous loss to our community and to our town.
Bowley belonged to a generation where individuals measured each other by their courage and honesty, and now he belongs to the ages. He was a plain-spoken man who approached governance with candidness, put politics aside in his decision-making and put his principles first.
Bowley was the type of person who worked hard to make his town a better place to live. He was the type of person who tried to right a wrong, reached out to people who needed help and taught us by example that we all have a responsibility to better our community and country.
While he was greatly admired by fellow Republicans, he was also loved by Democrats, who revered him and trusted him whether it was during his tenure on the Zoning Board of Appeals or on the Board of Selectmen. Bowley was the real deal, a straight-shooter as he has been called by some -- he treated everyone he encountered with immense respect and kindness. He could disagree with you on issues without being disagreeable. He gave us all strength and leadership in challenging times; wisdom when we had doubt and a boundless spirit in times of victory and happiness.
Bowley was a mentor to many of us, a wise teacher, and no one was more fluent on everything Fairfield then he. Ahead of Election Day, he would rally us just as a coach would huddle his team before a big game. He made you feel important and he had an uncanny ability to make you feel special.
Bowley was the father of three children, a son, Christopher, who passed on before him, and two daughters, Shannon and Gillian, who were proud of their father's professional and political accomplishments. But Bowley was prouder of these titles -- husband and father, and always talked about being indebted to his beloved wife, Debbie, who supported his endeavors.
Bowley showed his character in the uniform of his country when he served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969. His love for his country and community carried on here in Fairfield, where he was a volunteer for numerous organizations from coaching youth sports to giving his time to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and the Kiwanis Club. He was a man of deep faith, but he never made the mistake that so many politicians do of wearing his faith on his sleeve to win political advantage.
He was a ubiquitous figure in the real estate industry and he was president of two successful appraisal outfits. He also served as a deacon and elder for his church, the First Presbyterian Church. Bowley loved the outdoors and had hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail -- even part of his e-mail address encompassed the word "hiker."
Bowley was a good and simple man and embodied many attributes that we all aspire to hold -- humility, loyalty, kindness and the ability to treat people with innate dignity.
While Bowley's tenure on the Board of Selectmen was comparatively brief, so many people will long remember him for his courage and for his common sense and the indelible mark he left on Fairfield.