The Life of Sir Barry Bowen
Tears have been shed and with certainty many more will continue to fall and many laughs have also been shared in the memory of the late Sir Barry Bowen. A tragedy without a doubt, for Sir Barry was a loving husband, an exemplary father, a business tycoon and an amazing friend. Often seen driving his green tractor around San Pedro Town holding a Belikin cup in hand, donning a straw hat, no shirt, khaki pants and no shoes, Sir Barry was a true San Pedrano. He was also a Belizean, forever working to improve and contribute to the nation’s commerce and industry, an accomplishment which garnered him the title of a true knight. Wearing gray coattails, a top hat and spats on his feet, he was officially recognized as such by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II when she knighted him, in December 2007, as an Ordinary Member of the Second Class of Knight Commander of the said Most Distinguished Order (KCMG).
Barry Mansfield Bowen was born on September 19th, 1945 in Belize City to parents Emilie and Eric Bowen originally from San Ignacio. From a tender age, Barry’s drive and ambition was clearly visible as everyone remembers him always striving for the best; never settling for second. Throughout his life, he worked and learned much from his father, who in the 1930’s established Crystal Bottling Company, producing aerated Crystal drinks. After completing University, Barry led the Bowen & Bowen Group of Companies with his father. Soon enough, they began distributing the Coca Cola line of products under the name Bowen & Bowen and Barry took over as manager in 1968. In 1971 an extension to the companies was added with the Brewery. Bowen & Bowen continued to grow and so did Barry. Seven years later he assumed full control of the company.
Barry’s love for Ambergris Caye was another thing that grew, after paying visits to the small fishing village. Along with his companion Dixie Summerscales, Barry made the island their home. His sons Kevin, Michael and daughter Shelly (resident of USA) along with her two boys Alexander and Dustin frolicked in the white sandy beaches. Their family was made complete with the addition of baby sister Courtney who today is pursuing an education in the USA. The four men today reside in Belize and work in various branches of the Bowen companies. The love that Barry and Dixie had for each other was confirmed at a lovely beach ceremony, where the couple exchanged wedding vows in December of 2004. The Bowens were a stronghold in the social scene within the community, attending fundraisers, events and fishing tournaments. Cup and cigar in hand, Barry had no hesitation to share a smile or chitchat with his island friends. His love for nature would always place him on his boat, sailing or fishing with his friends. Good times were had, enjoying scrumptious food, thirst quenching drinks and laughter above all.
Barry would travel to the mainland and continue conducting business. In the 1980’s he became the owner of Belize Estates and Company making him the proprietor of 130,000 acres of land, a 150 year old estate and 3,000 acres of Gallon Jug, where Chan Chich Lodge is located. To this day, much of that area has been reserved and remains under protection. The Lodge has been welcoming guests since December 4th, 1988 and has received international recognition in the form of National Geographic, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) who conducted a six month study on water density.
Barry dabbled in many industries, aside from the ones he is most notably known for: Coca Cola, Sprite, Fanta, Belikin, Lighthouse, Stout, Chan Chich. Employing an estimated workforce of 1,500 individuals, the subsidiaries of the companies include the Crystal Bottling Company which produces juices and purified water; Belize Aquaculture Limited (BAL) which is a state of the art shrimp farm and is also contracted to supply 10 megawatts of power to Belize Electricity Limited for the national grid; Belize Estate and Producers Company Limited, the local agent for Ford vehicles; and Gallon Jug Agro-Industry Limited which produces cattle, lumber, hot sauce, jams and jellies. Barry’s business skills were beyond par, his legacy spans across miles.
His heart was just as big, assisting in every way he could to the development of the country’s social aspect. On the island, along with his wife he opened the Island Academy, while in Gallon Jug a school was also begun for the children of his employees, the Bowen & Bowen Group of Companies is listed as a supporter of the Lifeline Foundation, founded by Kim Simplis-Barrow. The island he loved benefited as well, whether it was garbage bins donated or funding for the Boca del Rio Bridge, Barry was also lending a helping hand. For his continued efforts and the fact that he was assisting Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr., with runway plans at the time of his death, will also garner him another honor when the San Pedro airstrip is renamed the Barry Bowen Municipal Airstrip (later this year after renovations have been made).
His legacy is now being continued by his sons who will continue with the Bowen name. However, Sir Barry was unique, outstanding and undeniably charming, a Belizean that will be remembered lovingly and forever missed.
Remembering the Caseys
As the sun set behind the island of San Pedro darkness began its slow envelope. With it a somber feeling befell all as the news of the Casey family death was discovered. Four deaths, a terrible unexpected tragedy cutting short their lives which had been dedicated to the betterment of those near and far to them. She was a former Marion, Massachusetts, resident who graduated from Bishop Stang High School, while he was had lived his earlier life in Albany, New York. Together they made their life in the jungles of Belize at the Gallon Jug Estate where they ran the Gallon Jug Community School.
Jillian and Mike met in college while they attended St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. They moved to the Belizean green pastures and were married in January 2006. For the past nine years, the Caseys ran the 75-student school which had grades spanning from kindergarten through Grade 8. He was the principal and seventh and eighth grade teacher while Jill taught grades three and four at the school. As part of their dedication to the children of Gallon Jug, the Caseys raised scholarship funds to send some of their better students to schools in the U.S. They also reached out to donors in the U.S. for one of their exceptional students to attend Tabor Academy in Marion. The student is now a freshman at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Friends close to the Caseys speak of their devotion to their students stating that Michael always encouraged his students to give back to the community when they finish their education. “They were both the real deal. She was the most loving, kind, gentle, strong woman you could ever meet in your life,” they expressed.
The oldest of three girls born to Linda Schuessler and the late Peter J. Schuessler, Jillian graduated from Bishop Stang in 1995. She will always be remembered as an active student, participating in many activities. Jillian was a member of the tennis team, the ski club and Students Against Destructive Decisions at Stang and was also a member of the school’s basketball team for three years and the field hockey team for two years. Besides her mother, Jillian Casey’s survivors include two sisters, Amanda Dodge of Gallon Jug, Belize, and Melissa Schuessler of Providence.
Mike was a Lasalle graduate who recently took over as president of the local organization, World’s Window, Incorporated in Albany, a charity that has ties around the world. The organization is involved in a huge variety of projects in several regions of the world focusing on Health, Education, the creation of Self Sustaining Communities and Empowerment for all people. At the time of his death, Mike was waiting to hear from SUNY-Albany about his graduate degree in Administration.
The couple enjoyed their work in Belize, commenting that they were not concerned about the financial aspects of what they were doing, but were concerned about the social aspects of what they were doing. He stated once, “We came to Belize for an opportunity to teach outside our country of the United States. We also came here to meet other ethnic groups and to see the rainforest of Belize. Belize still has 70% of its rainforests left to be explored and that attracted us.”
The couple shared their love of the country and its people with their two children Makayla, 3, and Bryce, 7 months. It is a terrible loss, a young family with such a promising life ahead, loved and adored by students and inspiration truly for us all. It is a loss shared around the world, their accomplishments and efforts to make the world a better place will not go unnoticed as others continue with their lives’ work. The Gallon Jug institution will be renamed in their honor and forever their names will be etched in Belizean history. Rest in Peace Casey Family, thank you for the dedication you gave to our children and know that you will be forever missed.