Bailey Bowman was traveling with boyfriend Gerald Lathrop along State Route 795 heading towards his parents’ home on the evening of June 5.
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.
“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.”
Lathrop said ever since his life has been a media circus, but he’s gotten used to it. As a result, they’ve set up memorial funds with several different banks.
“I couldn’t talk about it the first time (media) interviewed me,” Lathrop continued. “It was hard. It’s gotten easier, and I don’t want to say that I don’t care anymore, but it’s just gotten easier telling the story. Everybody wants to know the story, and it doesn’t affect me as bad because I’ve told it so many times,” Lathrop said.
“I’ve seen it on Cleveland news. My mother’s boss lives in Little Rock, Arkansas and he saw it on his news, and me and Bailey’s picture was on the news in Arkansas. I have family in Florida, Hawaii, Georgia, New York, and they all want to make donations so we had to set up a national bank.”
Those planning an expression of sympathy are asked to consider the Bailey Bowman Memorial Fund at State Bank of Walbridge A national fund was set up at Chase Bank under the name Gerald Lathrop, and funds are also set up under Bailey’s name at all Genoa Bank locations and statewide at First Merit Bank, which has its closest locations in Toledo and Wayne, Ohio.
Lathrop says he vividly remembers meeting Bailey and knowing they belonged together.
“One of my good friends came over to my house when I was 16 and told me that he was going to a haunted house with some people. He asked me if I was doing anything, and he said, ‘You should come with us.’ I said, ‘I didn’t want to go’ and he kept insisting that I went. I ended up going and that’s where I met Bailey and it was love at first sight,” Lathrop said.
“I told her that I wanted to be with her, and she didn’t want anything to do with me in the beginning. She wanted (my friend), and then she got to know me and I was around her and I was her good friend. Then we ended up dating and she really fell in love with me and then we had a kid together and we’ve lived together ever since.”
Lathrop realizes he assumes the personal responsibility of raising their two-year-old son, Gerald Lathrop Jr.. Gerald Jr. was not traveling with the couple while they were driving along 795.
Gerald Sr. now fears his son will have never known his mother, but he’s asking for her now.
“He wants his mother and I can’t give it to him. He had his hair pulled last night by my niece and he screamed and screamed he wanted Mommy,” Gerald Sr. said.
“It’s a lot, especially on a single dad. It makes it hard with the little boy. I have a lot of family and a very good friend (Lake Twp. police officer) that looked at me and Bailey as a brother and sister. I mean, we were very close to them. They looked at our son like their own son.
“It’s a tough road, but I have a lot of friends and a lot of family here helping me. I’m going to make it through it the best I can. I don’t know how to go on and how to live life and how to do anything. I mean, even though we weren’t married, it was like we were married.
Gerald Sr. is planning to enroll Gerald Jr. in pre-school next year at age 3.
“I want him to start school so he can have his education. It means a lot to me, just taking care of him and being able to do what I can,” Gerald Sr. said.
Gerald Sr. said the memorial funds were set up to help Gerald Jr. through college.
Looking to future
Meanwhile Gerald Sr., who was home-schooled, wants to become a Lake Township police officer.
“I want to help people. I can tell you right now if Bailey was still alive and this never happened to me and Bailey, we would be up there volunteering and doing anything I could. I love this community. I grew up here my whole life and so has she,” Gerald Sr. said.
Bailey attended Lake High School, and both were going to back to school to earn their GEDs.
“That was her dream to be a nurse, and we were both working on our GEDs. It was a tough thing to do with her here — to get through school because the kind of people you are around when you go for a GED are the kind of people that don’t want to be there. People that dropped out of school and could give a darn about it,” Gerald Sr. said.
“We were the kind of people that dropped out of school, not for the reason that we didn’t care, but for other reasons and once you get out of the system it’s hard to remember those things. It was hard to do and now it is going to be even harder not having her here to help me through the GED.”
Also playing a major role in Bailey’s life was her step-father, Michael Granata. Bailey was preceded in death by her father Terry Bowman, who died of a massive heart attack at the age of 28 before Bailey’s birth.
“Her (step) father Mike has been her life since she was 3-years-old and has been with her ever since, so he’s played the father role,” Gerald Sr. said.
Granata said, “We were close as could be. I mean, I’ll never forget her.”
Funeral services were scheduled for Saturday at Cedar Creek Church in Perrysburg Township. Various family members also attend St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Walbridge and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stony Ridge.
Visitation was at Hoeflinger-Bolander Funeral Home on Navarre Avenue, Oregon, which Granata feels was appropriate.
A local radio station, 92.5 FM, and funeral director Jim Bolander worked out an arrangement to pay for services, the family said. Gerald Sr. had the opportunity to speak about his girlfriend live on the air Tuesday morning, which promoted the set-up.
“I was so happy that she was able to (have visitation) there because my grandfather (the late Ted Baublitz, vice president and general manager of a funeral home in Trilby and Broadway avenues) trained Jim when he first started in the business. If you’ve seen my grandfather’s work, you’ve seen Jim Bolander’s work, because you can tell them apart (from others),” Granata said.
Bowman is survived by her son; boyfriend; step-father; mother Pamela Bowman; brother Shawn Bowman; sister Tracie Bowman; grandfather George Cramer; grandmother Sheila Granata; niece Kelei Bowman. She was preceded in death by her father and uncle, George Cramer.
“Bailey was a wonderful mother, daughter, sister, and friend. She enjoyed the everyday beauties of the world that she left so unexpectedly. Her smile was enough to brighten up any day,” states her obituary.