James W. "Jim" Bower Sr., 84, of Trout Run, passed away peacefully at home, after a seven-year struggle with the effects of cancer on Saturday, April 22, 2023, with family and caregivers at his side.
Born Nov. 19, 1938, in Williamsport, he was a son of the late Joseph Bower and Dorothy (Saar) Bower Strouse.
Surviving are his loving and devoted wife, Cynthia Mengel Bower; his three children, James W. Bower Jr. (Kirstie), of Decorah, Iowa, Michael G. Bower (Kim Felty), of Selinsgrove, and Christy Gibson (Rab Donaldson) of Dunedin, Fla.; eight grandchildren, Lindsey, Brittany, Jonathan, Nicole, Gwyn, Micah, Rachel, and Hailey; six great-grandchildren; a brother, Joe Bower (Judy), of Pottsville; and several nieces and nephews.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by two brothers, Richard and Robert Bower; and a sister, Joan Bower Kennedy.
The family is exceedingly grateful to his caregivers, Brenda, Cheryl, Dawn, Francine, Joy, Kathie, Kelsey, Mary Ellen, Sue, and Sue for their unfailing attention, compassion, and good humor.
Jim was a 1957 graduate of the Williamsport Area High School, and attended Gettysburg College.
Perseverance, optimism, and a belief that anything worth doing is worth doing well guided Jim throughout his life. Following the untimely death of his father when he was sixteen, and being the oldest of five children, Jim worked the 3 to 11 p.m. shift at Avco in Williamsport during his last two years of high school, quickly learning that the route to success is based on turning problems into challenges. The philosophy served him well.
At the age of twenty-six, a few years after abandoning the pursuit of a career in aeronautical engineering to support a family, and working at both LubriKup and Glyco Chemical in Williamsport, he met Lou Hirsh, who offered him a job managing a new enterprise in Williamsport, Mister Donut. It was 1965, and Jim agreed if he could have a partnership (ten percent was available at the time) at the location on East Third Street. His mother, both astounded and supportive, said, "You’re going to make a living doing what?" But Jim being Jim, unsatisfied with his percentage, soon bought out the other partners and obtained the local rights to the Mister Donut franchises. After opening five shops, he determined they would be better if built the way he wanted them to be built, so he began his next enterprise, Keystone Construction Specialties, Inc., and worked with Wayne Hall and Tony Visco to build donut shops, Burger Kings, banks, warehouses, and office buildings over the next several years. This company was also instrumental in designing and facilitating adaptive reuse for several historic properties in Williamsport (e.g. the Firestone Building).
In 1980, he and his first wife, Christy (Gibson) Bower Lassiter, formed Christy Associates, a national buying cooperative for the Mister Donut franchisees. He and Cindy continued to foster a long and caring relationship with her and her extended family throughout the years. In 1983, he sold his Mister Donut franchises (which later became Dunkin’ Donuts) to his sons.
Active in community affairs, Jim served as chairman of the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, the Industrial Properties Corporation, the Lycoming County Water & Sewer Authority, the Directors’ Loan Committee of Commonwealth Bank, the Board of Directors of Commonwealth Bank Central, and the Williamsport YMCA. He was a founder, and first chairman of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy. He served as a member of the corporate board, and of the holding company of Commonwealth Bank, and as vice chair of the Williamsport-Lycoming Foundation. He also served on the board of the Pennsylvania College of Technology Foundation and Hudock Capital, and he chaired the capital campaign to build the new YMCA in Williamsport.
After trying "retirement" in 1994, Jim once again turned his love of business to the hospitality sector, entering into partnership to develop hotels. As president of Susquehanna Associates Management, Inc., he was also general partner for M&B Inn Partners and J&J Inn Partners. The company purchased and renovated underperforming hotels, as well as built new facilities, including Holiday Inns, Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, Candlewood Inn & Suites, Best Western, and Host Inn. He also renovated two independent hotels in Pittsburgh and Wellsboro, and built a third in Towanda.
On the flip side, Jim’s personality was bigger than life. He loved the water and boating, especially at his winter home in Florida, and summer cottage on the St. Lawrence River. A hunter and fisherman, he was in awe of big trees, majestic virgin forests, sunrises, sunsets, and all of wild nature. His lead foot on the gas pedal and tendency to "straighten out" the curves in the road made him legendary among family and friends. Boating with Jim could be hair-raising and prayer-sending. His football team was the Pittsburgh Steelers, his favorite drink a good Macallan scotch, and he was fearless at poker. His presence in any gathering commanded attention. His calm demeanor and resonant voice could bring resolution to any conflict. One of his favorite sayings (and there were many) was that you can’t beat somebody that doesn’t quit. He never quit.
But of all things he was most proud, his family topped the list.
A celebration of Jim’s life will be held for the community on June 24, at 2 p.m. at the River Valley Regional YMCA Williamsport Branch, 641 Walnut St, Williamsport, PA 17701.
Memorial contributions may be made in Jim’s name to the River Valley Regional YMCA Williamsport Branch, 641 Walnut St, Williamsport, PA 17701; the YWCA Northcentral PA, 815 West Fourth Street, Williamsport, PA 17701; the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, PO Box 2083, Williamsport, PA 17703; or the Thousand Islands Land Trust P.O. Box 238 Clayton, NY 13624.
But above all, to remember Jim, plant a tree. Help others in need. Be gracious. Be kind.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James W. "Jim" Bower Sr., please visit our floral store.
River Valley Regional YMCA Williamsport Branch
641 Walnut Street, Williamsport PA 17701
YWCA Northcentral PA
815 West Fourth Street, Williamsport PA 17701
Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy
PO Box 2083, Williamsport PA 17703
Thousand Islands Land Trust
PO Box 238, Clayton NY 13624