For family, Bailey Bowman’s memory will never die

J. Patrick Eaken

       Bailey Bowman was traveling with boyfriend Gerald Lathrop, Sr. along State Route 795 heading towards his parents’ home on the evening of June 5, 2010.
      The two 20-year-old Walbridge residents had spent the day at the Old West End Festival.
      Before reaching the home on Luckey Road, a Category EF4 tornado swept up both Bowman and Lathrop, however, Bowman did not survive. Lathrop and Bowman had a 2½-year-old son, Gerald Lathrop, Jr., who was left without his mother.
      “Bailey and I were coming home from dinner and we were trying to get to my parent’s house for shelter because we heard that there were bad storms, so we left early,” Lathrop said. “We got to-go boxes and we were going to come back here and eat and be with my family and we didn’t make it.
      “We ran into a tornado and tried to get to the (Lake Township police) department. I never saw what happened to her. I ended up getting thrown against the building and the only thing that saved my life was two boulders — one on my right and one on my left that held the building up and kept it from falling on me. The whole building collapsed, and I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Lathrop continued.
      “But I’ll never move forward from that day. It just plays in my head — it’s a tape play that never quits.”
      Fast forward 10 years to 2020, and Gerald Sr. and Gerald Jr. are doing well, although it took a few years for Gerald Sr. to recover from the trauma.
      Four years after the tornado, in October 2014, Gerald Sr. married Ashley Gallagher.
      Gerald Jr. will enter the seventh grade at Genoa Schools and hopes to play football.
      “It ‘s kind of cool. There are parts of him (Gerald Jr.) that remind me of her and parts that remind me of his dad. Thankfully, the kids have done well,” Kirk’s wife, Bambi, said.
      Now, Gerald Sr. and Ashley have their own twin daughter and son and bought a home on Pemberville Road. Ashley had a daughter of her own when they got married, and after much discussion they decided to have children together. What they got was twins — a daughter and son.
      “Mom wanted one and my dad didn’t and then a few years later my dad wanted one and my mom didn’t,” Gerald Jr. said.
      Two weeks ago, they closed on the purchase of an additional 30 acres adjacent to their property that includes a 14-acre pond, where they fish.
      “They were closing two weeks ago, and they were back there fishing,” Kirk said. “Since they had the closing, they moved a camper back there and the babies have their Mickey Mouse fishing poles. They were doing well with catching perch last week and they were going to have a fish fry.”
     Except for a small kitchen fire last week that disturbed their routine, Gerald Sr. has made peace with his family of six.
      “He’s really good with the kids. The kids love to fish and ride their minibikes,” Bambi, said. “It’s a good story and he’s done well. He’s wounded no matter what he says, and he questions life a lot, you know, ‘Why does this has to happen?’ Certain things happen throughout your life, and he wants to know why things happen. Now his neighbor is battling cancer and my mom is going through radiation and chemo. Still, why do these things happen all the time and they is no explanation?”
      Gerald Sr. has been working for Pat & Son Towing and Recovery. Coming onto the scene of trauma is part of his work.
      “I think he has a lot of good compassion for people with losses because in the age of cell phones, people show up at accidents and he must deal with some serious stuff. I don’t want to take away from the fire department and the police, but he is kind of a first responder also,” Kirk said.
      “Sometimes he gets word that he has to be there as quickly as possible with a wrecker because they have an upside-down vehicle in the water or something which the department can’t deal with properly. So, he’s a first responder and there are some things that hang with him, things that he is seeing that bother him.
      “He saw those people burn on I-280 a couple years ago when that semi kind of crossed over. They were there waiting, and obviously after someone dies, they have to wait for the state police to make all the adjustments, measurements and all that. There’s a lot to being in the towing business when you are dealing with the state police and the sheriff’s department, plus they do Oregon, Perrysburg and Lake Township,” Kirk continued.
      However, more than anything family members want to remember Bailey. They still celebrate her birthday, only Gerald Sr. typically spends the day at her gravesite. Even on Gerald Sr.’s 21st birthday, the family found him at her grave. The entire family does it’s part decorating Bailey’s gravesite, even Ashley.
      “We haven’t done it this year, but we did at Christmas — took a blanket over, but actually his wife is pretty good at going over there and making sure flowers are there and those things, which is nice,” Bambi said.
      For Gerald Jr, seeing his mother perish at a young age was difficult.
      “Bailey was a full-time mother and he (Gerald Jr.) has a really, really good memory. He remembers having his face pushed on his first birthday at the birthday party, so he had really bonded with his mother. That whole summer he looked for her, figuring she would be around,” Kirk said.
      Bailey’s stepfather Mike Granata had been in Bailey’s life since she was 3 years old.
       “We were close as could be. I mean, I’ll never forget her,” Granata said.
      At the Lathrop homestead on Luckey Road, the family has created a garden in her memory, and it helped that they got a second gravestone.
      “He wanted to do the grave marker there and he had some money saved up in the bank, and they worked on the design they wanted there, and they do that with laser onto the granite, and it’s not done locally,” Kirk said. “But he sent them an email about what he wanted on there and then they called and said its ready and they took his payment, and he said, ‘There are some mistakes on there. This isn’t what I sent you.’
      “They said we’ll redo it, and with the other stone he asked what you are going to do with it, and they said, ‘Well, you can get that at half price,’ so he made payments on that it’s now in that bamboo forest (in Kirk’s yard). There’s an actual bush called a Bailey (cranberry) bush, and we’re going to put that in there.”


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