ShareThis Page

Former Crafton pastor uses investments to make a lasting contribution to kids

| Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, 12:10 a.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Crafton Elementary third-graders Abby Graner (center) and Rylan Henry, both 8, make their way along the school’s climbing wall on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. The school’s playground was improved because of donations from the Rev. C. Edward Bowen.
Joe Appel Photography
The Rev. C. Edward Bowen of Huntington, W.Va., stands in the playground of Crafton Elementary School on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2013. Bowen, a former pastor of Crafton United Presbyterian Church, established a charitable fund to benefit the children of Crafton.
Second-graders, including Kendric Carlson, 7, colored and wrote thank-you notes to the Rev. C. Edward Bowen in May.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Crafton Elementary School fourth-grader Jhream Keys, 9, (second from left) and third-grader Paris Fairrley, 8, spin on new playground equipment on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, at the school.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Students at Crafton Elementary School play on the newly renovated playground equipment on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, at the school.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Crafton Elementary School students play in the newly renovated playground on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, at the school.
Second-graders, including Wilson Choate, 7, colored and wrote thank-you notes to the Rev.C. Edward Bowen in May.
Second-graders, including Ireland Lopez, 7, colored and wrote thank-you notes to the Rev. C. Edward Bowen in May.

The Rev. C. Edward Bowen knows his intestinal cancer gives him only a year or two to live, but his ministry will live on through children in Crafton.

A corporate accountant for two years before entering the seminary and becoming pastor at Crafton United Presbyterian Church, Bowen, 41, lived frugally and invested well. He established a fund in his name at the Pittsburgh Foundation so that, eventually, the remainder of his estate will increase the fund to $1 million for causes that help the borough's children.

A portion of an initial $200,000 gift paid for repairs to the playground at Crafton Elementary School.

“I'm trying to use the time I have left to do as much good as I can,” he said in an interview from his home in Huntington, W.Va., where he became pastor of Bates Memorial Presbyterian Church after a dozen years in Crafton. His parents, Charles and Joyce Bowen, moved to be near him.

While in Crafton, Bowen fell in love with the borough, known for its mature trees and Victorian homes. Home to about 1,130 children ages 17 and younger, the community earned a “Best Place to Raise Children in Pennsylvania” distinction from Bloomberg Business Week in 2011.

Bowen did his part to help it win that title. He started a ministry that fed families, tutored students in Crafton Elementary, bought kids coats and held dances for them.

“I never met somebody quite like him,” said Jim Nagorski, a sixth-grade teacher at the school who is on the committee that administers Bowen's fund. “I don't know if I'll ever be lucky enough to meet somebody quite like him again.”

Bowen and his brother Andrew grew up in Bethel Park, where he graduated from high school.

“Around my junior year of high school, I felt, out of the blue, this voice in my mind, saying ‘I want you to be a minister,' ” Bowen recalled. “It was very unexpected. It was not a vocation I ever considered. Growing up, I always considered being a stockbroker.”

Soon after the epiphany, he said, members of his church, Bethel Park Presbyterian, asked him if he ever considered being a minister. He believes God was telling him what to do.

He worked in the youth ministry at a church while attending Grove City College, where he earned a degree in accounting and economics. He became an accountant but soon heeded the call: He was ordained at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Before moving to Crafton in 2000, Bowen served churches in Vandergrift and Slickville in Westmoreland County.

Savannah Sevacko, 11, a sixth-grader at Crafton Elementary, said Bowen taught her how to pray. She cried when she learned of his illness.

“I know I'll really miss him when he does go,” she said. Her family befriended Bowen by volunteering at his church and sometimes attended his services even though they are Catholic.

“Words can't begin to describe him,” said Savannah's mother, Georgene Sevacko, 47. “He's given so much to this community. He's made this community a lot closer.”

Emily Tipping, the PTA president at Crafton Elementary and Bowen fund committee member, said she tried to talk him out of giving away his money. She thought he should do something for himself.

“It's hard for me to accept gifts from individuals, but he would keep on giving and giving,” Tipping said. “He's made it clear it means a great deal to him.”

During recess at the school last week, kids ran to the playground, where part of the surface is rubberized thanks to Bowen's gift. It helped protect Rylan Henry, 8, when he fell from the top of a climbing wall. “I'm fine,” he announced as he popped up.

Bowen and the school are planning more projects — possibly installing rubber on the entire playground and buying computers for classrooms.

“Kids only have one chance to be a kid,” he said.

Bowen wants his body returned to Crafton when he dies, for a funeral at his former church two blocks from the school. He wants to be buried in Bethel Park Presbyterian's cemetery.

His illness is beginning to wear on Bowen, Nagorski said. The chemotherapy has side effects that cause him to stagger at times, and he has difficulty doing simple tasks such as buttoning a shirt.

“But his mind is there, and so is his heart,” Nagorski said.

Bill Zlatos is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7828 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.