Passing of Nancy Bordewich Bowers: marks the end of an era

When my old and dear friend Nancy Bordewich Bowers died at home last Sunday at the age of 88, it marked the end of an era for me here in Carson City. My late wife, Consuelo, and I met Nancy and her older sister, legendary English teacher Grace Bordewich, shortly after we arrived here in 1962, and we were close friends for many years.

During my first few months in Carson, I hung out with fellow journalists and state government "flacks" (PR guys) at the State Capitol. But my wife had other interests, including hiking, and it wasn't long before we met Grace and Nancy, a talented artist, as part of a local Sierra Club hiking group. So I covered state and local politics for the Associated Press during the week and went hiking on weekends. Those outings usually involved a glass or two of good wine and stimulating conversation about a wide range of topics including art, culture and yes, politics.

Among our hiking companions were Gus and Jeanne Bundy and their young daughters, Molly and Tina. Gus was an outstanding nature photographer and Jeanne worked at the Carson City Library. Along with the Bordewich sisters, they were always exploring new ideas and challenging us to do the same. And today, Molly Toral and Tina Nappe are deeply involved in a Nevada State Museum project to preserve a Bordewich-Bowers family legacy (more on that later).

I vividly recall many enjoyable hikes in the Sierra Nevada to lovely places like Woods and Winnemucca lakes near Carson Pass, Little Valley in the mountains above Washoe Valley and the starkly beautiful Mono Lake sand dunes. We returned to Woods Lake for family picnics with Grace and Nancy many times over the years, usually followed by berry cobbler a la mode at Sorensen's Resort in scenic Hope Valley. Another favorite day trip was to the old-fashioned ice cream parlor in Volcano, Calif. When you were with Grace and Nancy, good food was always part of the program; they were gourmet cooks and owned more cookbooks than anyone I know.

The Bordewich ladies more or less "adopted" Consuelo shortly after they met and were a great comfort to us when our son, Guy, was born prematurely at the old Carson-Tahoe Hospital in 1966. And when I joined the U.S. Foreign Service a year later, and my wife became an American citizen, Grace and Nancy were her sponsors in a special swearing-in ceremony before Federal Judge Bruce Thompson, for whom the Reno federal courthouse is named. It was one of the proudest days of Consuelo's life.

In the first year after our son was born, the sisters would take Consuelo and the baby out for picnics along nearby Clear Creek - before they fenced off the meadows - and the Carson River. Those semi-spiritual outings usually included some serious poetry reading, most often Emily Dickinson (Grace's favorite) and/or Robert Frost (Consuelo's favorite).

When my beautiful wife died almost two years ago, we read from a classic Frost poem: "Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." Each of these three extraordinary women took the road less traveled, and that choice enriched their respective lives.

The Bordewich sisters were the last remaining members of pioneer Carson City families. Their maternal grandfather, Augustus Cutts, came west from Maine as a government scout to settle in Carson City in 1863. Later, he became superintendent of the Vivian and Santiago mills along the Carson River, which refined silver ore from Virginia City's rich Comstock Lode. Their father, Arthur Bordewich, a descendant of Norwegian seafarers, worked at the Nevada State Printing Office for more than 40 years, eventually becoming foreman of the Press Room, which is now the State Library and Archives Art Gallery.

At a public memorial service for Grace Bordewich six years ago, former students including former Gov. Bob List and District Judge Michael Griffin recalled Grace as a major influence in their lives.

Another former student, award-winning Nevada author Bob Laxalt, dedicated his 1989 novel, "The Basque Hotel," to his beloved English teacher. As for Nancy the artist, one of my most prized possessions is a stunning California poppy collage she gave us when we left town in mid-1967. That unique collage traveled around the world and today graces my home office here in Carson, where it all started.

Although the Bordewich sisters had no surviving close relatives, a distant cousin, nationally known author and journalist Fergus Bordewich, of Barrytown, N.Y., befriended them through the years and they were proud of his considerable accomplishments. In recent years, Nancy's constant companions were her loving caregivers, Jennifer Snowhill of Carson City and Una Roberts of Trinidad.

Although Nancy's death marks the end of an era in Carson City, we're working with Ms. Snowhill, the Bundy sisters and Bob Nylen of the State Museum to preserve a Bordewich family legacy by acquiring portions of their estate. Tax-deductible contributions to the Bordewich-Bowers Fund may be sent to the Museum at 600 N. Carson St., Carson City, NV 89701.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, moved to Carson City in January, 1962.


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