Sunday, April 18, 2021

In Memoriam: Bernard P. "Sonny" Bower

Bernard P. "Sonny" Bower
March 7, 1930 - April 14, 2021

Sonny was the seventh born and last surviving of nine siblings, seven surviving until their later years.
He was born March 2, 1930 on the mountain in Bastress Township and attended Immaculate Conception Church and school. At a young age he developed a love of aviation and Bluegrass music. Teaching himself to play the five-string banjo, guitar, and mandolin as well as other instruments. The aviation had to be put off till a little later.
In the middle of raising his family he became a very good auto body repairman, and he performed bluegrass music with various local bands and stood in at times with national artists who were performing locally. Then in the late '50s he formed his own band known as Sonny Bower and the Pennsylvania Mountain Boys performing at many venues throughout this part of the state.
In 1959 along with brother, Carl, he opened in Newberry, Bower Brothers Body Shop which he operated until his retirement.
Throughout the '60s he satisfied his love of aviation through RC modeling, being known as an excellent model builder, especially scale models and as a pilot often being asked by others to fly their model's first flight. Then in the early '70s, he was finally able to get into "real" flying obtaining his general aviation license after the age of 40. He purchased his first plane, sold it and purchased his second which he had until he could no longer fly. He was well-known by the folks in Nippenose Valley where his plane was based, often performing aerobatics for them. One incident stands out among many and much to the consternation of one member of the Williamsport Bureau of Police, he landed his plane with skis on it on the river ice. That made its way into coverage in the Sun-Gazette. He also shared his love of flying with many young would-be pilots with the EAA's Young Eagle program giving over 100 youth their first experience in light aircraft flight. In the late '80s, using his auto body experience and mechanical abilities, he took on the task of the restoration of his plane, a late '40s vintage Piper PA 12 Super Cruiser, restoring it to better-than-new condition and winning several fit and finish awards at judged shows.
A highlight was while visiting his grandson in Switzerland getting to fly around the Matterhorn.
Also a talented woodworker, his small furniture and cabinetry pieces grace his and the homes of many family members and friends.

Surviving are his children, Bruce L., Mark S., Bernard P. "Buzz" Jr., Suzanne M. (Bower) Smith, and Edward G. II; 14 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren; and his companion for 42 years, Margaret "Peg" Hinaman.
In addition to his parents, siblings, LaRue, Edward, Robert, Ramona, Carl and Jane all preceded him in death.

Our Dad always sought and loved the attention his many skills and talents brought him. He will be missed by many. We love you Dad!
The family will receive family and friends at Crouse Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 133 E. Third St., Williamsport, on Sunday, April 18, from 2 to 4 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 5973 Jacks Hollow Road, in Bastress Township, with his pastor, Rev. Bert Kozen, officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. In keeping with PA Health Department regulations, a mask will be required.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to Piper Aviation Museum, 1 Piper Way, Lock Haven, PA 17745, or Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 5973 Jacks Hollow Road, Williamsport, PA 17702.

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