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Avid athlete was a retired teacher and mentor

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Peter Bowman:

He died after falling off a trail on his mountain bike Tuesday at the Pupukea Forest Reserve

Peter Bowman was someone who took the marrow out of life, and did not waste a moment of it.

A former middle school teacher, mentor, and inspiration to many, Bowman, 66, lived each day fully and was not really “retired” even in semi-retirement. The avid surfer, mountain biker and dirt bike rider had a sense of adventure and a love of the outdoors.

He also loved his family, and always saw the glass half-full instead of half-empty.

“He always saw people as their goodness, he always saw them for their possibility,” said longtime friend Alan Gamble. “And he was a man of great compassion. He took the opportunity to ask people about how they were doing, and really took the time to listen to them and was extremely caring and willing to be involved.”

Bowman died after falling down a 4-foot drop while mountain biking at the Pupukea Paumalu Trail on Oahu’s North Shore on Tuesday, according to the Honolulu Fire Department.

Firefighters arrived at the scene at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, and found other bikers already performing CPR on Bowman. He was transported by Emergency Medical Services in critical condition to a hospital, where he later died.

Friends and family say Bowman was a skilled and competent biker, that he knew the Pupukea Paumalu trail well, as well as his abilities.

He was not doing crazy maneuvers or jumps, said Steve Villiger of the Oahu Mountain Bike Ohana, but may have had the misfortune of landing badly. Mountain bikers are a close-knit community, he said, and many knew Bowman as an always smiling, friendly and kind-hearted fellow biker.

Born in 1952 in Hermosa Beach, Calif., Bowman came to Hawaii in the ‘70s as a surfer and a student.

He graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and taught at Kalakaua Middle School for about 20 years. He also worked for the state Department of Education and was an advocate of the Philosophy for Children approach, which encourages kids to develop and pursue their own critical thinking skills.

Colleagues at Kalakaua Middle School remember a teacher who was able to get students interested in learning, and who was well-liked by kids and fellow teachers alike.

John Takeuchi, a teacher at Kalakaua Middle, said Bowman was a legend at the school.

“He was a mentor to everyone,” he said. “He taught a lot of kids, and taught a lot of teachers … He was one of my heroes.”

Takeuchi said he remembers being a new teacher at the time, and meeting Bowman.

“He was a proponent for peace and love and caring,” said Takeuchi. “Lived life to the fullest and was a legend at our school. Worked in all the departments and wore many different hats. From technology coordinator to outreach counselor. He was even a suicide hotline counselor.”

On biking trips, Takeuchi recalled having many great conversations with Bowman.

“He will forever live in our hearts at the school,” said Takeuchi.

Burt Lau, a neighbor and friend, recalled how Bowman volunteered his time with the neighborhood watch program, and organized others to regularly clean up a neighborhood park.

“He was just a tremendous neighborhood treasure,” said Lau. “He will be sorely missed.”

Ryan Shimabukuro, Bowman’s nephew, said his uncle was fun-loving and adventurous, with a strong love of life. His favorite surfing spot was at Diamond Head.

“From my youngest memories, he was always encouraging kids to explore, to ask questions, be inquisitive, and to have fun, most of all,” said Shimabukuro, who knew him as Uncle Pete. “That’s what he brought into his classroom.”

Shimabukuro said as a result, he and many others in the family, including Bowman’s son, were inspired to pursue careers in education, as well.

Bowman also had a great sense of humor and an ability to make others laugh.

“He’d always have us laughing, and having a great time,” said Gamble. “Even if someone else wasn’t doing well, he had a way of bringing them up, and helping them see the brighter side of things.”

Friends who heard the news responded with an outpouring of sympathy notes and memories of someone with a positive and kind soul on Bowman’s Facebook page. Recently, Bowman posted a photo and quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

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