As a 23-year-old college student who had just been elected to represent the 2nd District (Troy) on the Madison County Board, the first person I sought out for advice was Evelyn Bowles, then the Madison County Clerk. Having already served the public for more than 35 years, I expected Evelyn to give me a lengthy list of the do’s and don’ts of being a board member.
Seated behind the same wooden desk used by her mentor, Eulalia “Uke” Hotz, Evelyn looked at me directly and simply said, “Always do what’s best for the people of Madison County.” Thirty-five years later, and now chairman of the Madison County Board, I have never forgotten her words.
Evelyn Bowles, who passed away Friday, was the epitome of a public servant. She began her career of more than 50 years as a school teacher before joining Ms. Hotz’s staff in the County Clerk’s office. She rose to become Chief Deputy Clerk and, in 1974, Madison County Clerk. She retired in 1993 only to be called back to service in 1994 when, following the passing of Illinois State Senator Sam Vadalabene, she was appointed to his senate seat. Evelyn would go on to serve eight years in the senate.
With her health failing, Evelyn became a resident at Eden Village, where my mother also resides. I can personally attest that Evelyn never really slowed down, moving up and down the halls offering a kind word to her fellow residents and a smiling greeting to visitors in much the same manner as she did for so long to the people of Madison County she served so well.
And at Eden Village, Evelyn remained in charge, which will come as no surprise to those who knew her. As County Clerk, Evelyn insisted that every phone call be promptly answered. So it was only natural that when the telephone rang at the Eden Village nurses’ station late one afternoon and no staff member was in the vicinity, Evelyn answered the call.
The caller was from an agency that was to provide substitute nurses to fill in for the Eden nurses scheduled to attend an all-day training session the following day. The caller asked if the substitute nurses would still be required, to which Evelyn, who never backed down from making a decision, replied the substitute nurses would not be needed. It wasn’t until the following day, when the training session had to be cancelled, that it was discovered that Evelyn “handled” the situation.
Evelyn was kind, intelligent, hard-working and passionate. One of her favorite quips, “The best man for the job is often a woman,” was often delivered with a smile that belied her strong support for women’s rights. She displayed a great deal of empathy for others and would often quietly go out of her way to help those in need. Evelyn was also a great supporter and mentor, helping nurture and advance the careers of many young men and women.
At Madison County Government, we mourn the passing of a great public servant, and of a friend and mentor. She will be missed.