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‘Malasada Man’ taught and sang

  • COURTESY PHOTO
    Francis "Miki" Bowers was the Punahou Carnival's "Malasada Man," as well as a teacher and musician.
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To generations of Hawaii residents, Francis "Miki" Bowers was the Punahou Carnival’s "Malasada Man." But to those who knew him better, Bowers was also a gifted teacher, talented musician, tireless swimmer and much more.

Bowers died on New Year’s Day at age 83.

"Everything he did, he did with huge exuberance," said daughter Laurel Bowers Husain. "The things he loved, he truly loved — and he couldn’t wait to share them with other people."

Bowers grew up in Nuuanu and Kaneohe and showed early promise as a musician. Drawing from his part-Hawaiian roots, he brought his encyclopedic knowledge of Hawaiian songs to life with enviable ukulele skills and a booming bass voice.

From 1962 to 1965, he was the featured performer on "Sing Along With Miki," a local take on the TV show "Sing Along With Mitch." The live, call-in show featured Bowers performing with local stars.

Yet Bowers’ talents and interests extended far beyond music.

Bowers graduated from Punahou in 1945, spent half a year at Stanford University, then enlisted in the Army. After serving on active duty for a year and a half, he joined the ROTC program at the University of Hawaii, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He would later earn a master’s in math from the University of Kansas and a doctorate in mathematics education from Ohio State.

Bowers transferred his commission to the Hawaii Army National Guard and commanded the 487th Field Artillery Battalion in Vietnam. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and a Bronze Star with Valor. He retired from the Guard in 1979 as a colonel.

Bowers’ military service and his Ph.D. studies came during breaks from his employment at Punahou, to which he devoted some 40 years as an educator.

Bowers taught every math course the school offered and spent 12 years as the department chairman. He supervised the College Board Examination Center for 25 years and introduced the Advanced Placement program. He wrote his own textbook when the one he was using went out of print.

Stanford University named Bowers its "Most Influential High School Mathematics Teacher" three times. He earned the same distinction from Harvey Mudd College in 1992.

In 1957 Bowers and cafeteria director Minnie Marciel introduced the first Punahou Carnival malasada booth. Over the next 53 years, Bowers — nattily dressed in apron and paper hat — would become one of the most recognizable faces at the annual event.

"When I think of Miki, a wide variety of pictures come to mind," said former Punahou math teacher and track and field coach Mike Pavich. "Malasadas report after the carnival, late-night singing around the piano at the Tahitian Lanai, math department meetings and the ‘Calc AP Report,’ a big, huge slap on the back in passing at Bingham Hall with a ‘Howzit braddah, braddah!’

"He was so enthusiastic about life and people and his experiences with them."

A lifelong swimmer — he coached swimming as well as water polo and volleyball at Punahou — Bowers was a popular figure at Ala Moana Beach, where he swam nearly every day for decades.

Bowers Husain said her father shared his many passions with his wife and six children and was always enthusiastic about sharing in their interests as well.

"He absolutely loved his family," she said. "He was so happy to have a big family and it was almost embarrassing how he would tell everybody our family history."

Bowers is survived by his wife Mary "Mandy" Blake Bowers, daughter Laurel Bowers Husain, sons Andy, John, Charles "Jib" and Doug, sister Betty Evensen, brother Vernon Knight and four grandchildren.

Inurnment will be at Punchbowl Cemetery at 8:30 a.m. Friday. Services will be at Thurston Memorial Chapel on the Punahou School campus at 3 p.m. Saturday, with visitation beginning at 1 p.m. Donations may be make to the Miki Bowers Scholarship Fund at Punahou School or a charity of one’s choice.

 

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