Many people in San Antonio knew Erin Bowman as a tireless community advocate who devoted much of her life to raising millions of dollars for charitable causes, co-founding the Alamo Endowment to provide funds for the mission’s preservation. To her son, Casey Tennison, however, she was “an amazing woman and mother” who often appeared larger than life.
“She could ride horses in the morning, go fishing in the afternoon, and then put on a beautiful Bill Blass gown in the evening to go to a fundraiser,” Tennison said. “She was a true Southern Texas woman.”
Bowman died June 23 from complications following a heart attack. She was 70.
Born on Sept. 5, 1948, in Carrizo Springs, Texas, Bowman graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Although she didn’t teach full time, Bowman worked as a substitute teacher when she wasn’t too busy raising three children, her son said.
Tennison recalled that her fundraising work began after he fell and suffered a skull fracture at age 8 and was hospitalized at Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital.
“She believed everybody should have a chance for a better life,” he said. “She saw there was a need there to help others, so she decided to start fundraising for the Santa Rosa Hospital, and it grew from there.”
Bowman was an avid supporter of the Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, now called the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, for more than two decades, serving on the board of the Children’s Hospital Foundation from 1982 to 2004. She also served as the board’s executive secretary for many years, said Dr. Richard Wayne, former CEO of the Children’s Hospital.
“She was very active in the philanthropic mission of the foundation, most notably being a key leader in the Miracle 2000 campaign, which resulted in the state-of-the-art, five-story, outpatient building, which continues to serve countless numbers of children and families,” Wayne said. “She was an active volunteer, coming to the hospital at 6:30 every Christmas morning to help deliver holiday gifts to all the children.”
Bowman served on many other boards and become active in community service. She was a founding member and former president of the SA Cancer Council (formerly the Cancer Center Council), a San Antonio Livestock Exposition Life Member, and a board member at Sunshine Cottage School for the Deaf from 1992 to 1995.
Two of her biggest accomplishments, her son said, included raising $1 million from the Ewing Halsell Foundation for renovations and repairs to the Alamo, as well as co-founding the Alamo Endowment to ensure its long-term preservation.
“My mom raised millions of dollars for the Alamo from big private donors,” Tennison said. “They gave because they knew her personally.”
Bowman’s determination to raise funds for the Alamo led to her expulsion from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). “It didn’t bother me,” she told Texas Monthly magazine in 2010. “The women in charge don’t know anything at all about business. They are living in the dark ages. My blood makes me a Daughter, not them.”
The DRT eventually lost control of the Alamo site, which was taken over by the Texas General Land Office, the agency that oversees it today.
Douglass McDonald, CEO of the Alamo, said he met Bowman when she became the agency’s appointee to serve on the Alamo Plaza Citizens Advisory Committee.
“She’s been involved with the Alamo for a long time,” he said. “In the end, she was focused on making sure we tell the history of the Alamo accurately. She was a strong person, passionate about the things she believed in and completely committed to whatever she was involved with.”
Tennison added that his mother was quite proud of the lineage that gave her membership in the DRT, as well as in the Daughters of the American Revolution, United Daughters of 1812, Colonial Dames of the 17th Century, and Daughters of the Confederacy.
Bowman began a real estate career in 2003, selling ranch and farm properties and was working as a realtor with Corie Properties in Alamo Heights at the time of her death.
Bowman is survived by a daughter, Marrs Bowman, and son-in-law, Will Eggers; two sons, Charles “Bucky” and Casey Tennison; Casey’s wife, Lara Kerr; sisters Tara Gardner Eastland, Sean Gardner Turner, Thetis Gardner LeMaistre, and Dana Gardner Wilson; and two grandchildren, Olivia and Noah Tennison.
Visitation services are from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 8, at Porter Loring Mortuary, 1101 McCullough Ave. Burial is at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9, at Mount Hope Cemetery in Carrizo Springs.