Norma H. B. Cleaver, age 86, of Arthur, W. Va., died Thursday, July 29, 2021, while residing at the home of her daughter, Ann McCoy, in Clarksburg, Md. She was born Norma Lucretia Haire on November 21, 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression and during a period in which Roaring 20s and Depression era mobsters were being mopped up and the ingredients of a world war were beginning to stir. Hitler had become dictator of Germany just three months before and the following month child actress Shirley Temple would become a national film star upon the release of “Bright Eyes.”
The daughter of the Virgie Leona (Barr) Haire, a rural one-room schoolhouse teacher, musician, music instructor, and farmer, and the Rev. Alvin Harrison Haire, a minister, educator, writer, and beekeeper, Norma Lucretia Haire was born at home, on the family farm in Arthur, W. Va.
Her parents having divorced before her birth, she was raised on the family farm by her mother and her maternal grandparents, David Frederick Barr and Mary Alice (Parker) Barr.
Like many yeoman farms in 1930s rural America, it was largely self-sufficient, yet for many of her years growing up, her had neither indoor plumbing nor electricity. Though it would be electrified in the 1940s, running water remained limited to a kitchen sink hand pump, and meals were prepared using a wood-burning stove. An educator, the mother of two children, and a wife, she was for thirty years the spouse and essentially an uncompensated, but tacit, co-minister and partner in the full-time ministry of her first husband, the late Rev. Lee G. Bowman.
After graduation from, Petersburg, W. Va., high school, she moved to the Capitol Hill area in Washington, D.C., living at the Thompson-Markward Hall Woman’s Home during the first term of the Eisenhower administration. She worked as a clerk for the U.S. Department of the Navy at the Washington Navy Yard. However, finding bureaucratic clerical work too boring, monotonous, and frustrated by being told to type random numbers to “look busy” when government managers made inspections, she became a waitress at the Hot Shoppe in the District at 1621 H Street NW. She received her bachelors of science degree in elementary education at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.
On June 8, 1957, a week following graduation, she and Lee married at Aldersgate Wesleyan Church, Falls Church, Va. Foreshadowing a life in which much of her life would be personally involved in church ministry, they honeymooned at Lake Wawasee, Indiana, during the Evangelical United Brethren Church’s annual conference. Upon her husband's graduation three years later from Evangelical Theological Seminary, Naperville, Il., student pastorate at San Pierre, Indiana, EUB Church, and ordination, Mrs. Bowman and her husband began a life of parish ministry.
Between 1960 and her husband's retirement in 1989, she and her husband, the Rev. Lee G. Bowman, pastored churches in the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church, the United Methodist Church (UMC), and the Church of the Brethren: Harper's Chapel, Harper, W. Va., and Walnut Street EUB Church, Franklin, W. Va.; St. James EUB Church, Pleasant Valley, Va., Mt. Sinai EUB (now Vision of Hope UMC) Church, Harrisonburg, Va.; Glovier Memorial United Methodist Church, Waynesboro, Va.; New Enterprise Church of the Brethren, New Enterprise, Pa.; and Tyler Memorial United Methodist Church, Hampton, Va. She was a volunteer for Hotline, the Waynesboro, Va., personal crisis center and, in Pennsylvania, a Church of the Brethren licensed lay minister.
While living in Virginia, she taught various elementary grades at the Upper Tract Elementary School in Upper Tract, W. Va., McGaheysville, Va., for the Rockingham County, Va., School District, Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Staunton, Va., and the Hampton, Va., school district.
A maternal descendant from a long line of musicians, innately musical, played the piano, was renowned for her solo singing voice from a young age, participated in choirs at the churches she attended and served at throughout her life, often provided special music and piano accompaniment at services, and she composed and copyrighted several songs. Having grown up on a farm, she claimed not to be sentimental about animals, yet she fostered and adopted numerous stray cats and a dog, providing them with love and affection, shelter, food and veterinary care for the rest of their lives. She loved and cared for precious and dear things, whether they be little prettily decorated finger bowls or a child's stuffed toy lamb.
Upon his disability from a series of strokes, she and her husband retired to their family home in Arthur, W. Va., in 1989 where she cared for him until his death in 1992. She also took in her mother Leona Haire and maternal Aunt Esther Popowski, caring for them to the end of their lives. She married Elvin Cleaver of Dorcas, W. Va., a former high school classmate, making a home together at her residence in Arthur, caring for him after his cancer diagnosis until his death in 2015.
She loved to care for her home and pets, to read, to vegetable and flower garden, to can copious amounts of vegetables from her garden annually until a few years before her death. She was a member of the Maysville Bible Brethren Church.
She enjoyed dining out, especially with friends and family. A child of the Great Depression, she was an inveterate saver of even the smallest items she believed might be put to some other use and reused and recycled all that she could.
She was predeceased by her parents, her two husbands, Rev. Lee G. Bowman and Elvin (Bub) Cleaver, a sister Helen (Haire) Michaels, her maternal aunt and uncle, Esther (Barr) and Fred Popowski formerly of Falls Church, Va.; half-sisters Anna Lee (Haire) Ours, of Dorcas, W. Va., Geraldine (Haire) Armstrong of New Florence, Pa., and Louise (Haire) Steffey of Oakmont, Pa.; a paternal aunt Virginia Burkstresser, New Florence, Pa.; a foster brother, Robert Evans; her sister-in-law Lola Virginia (Bowman) Carr and her husband, the Rev. William “Bill” Carr, formerly of Westernport, Md., and several cousins with whom she enjoyed lifelong relationships, most notably the late Joyce “Pinky” (Painter) Smith and her late husband Carl Smith of Petersburg, W. Va.
She is survived by her two children: a son, Lloyd Frederick Bowman and his spouse Douglas L. Brunk of Elkins Park, Pa., their son Sheldon Marshall Thomas Bowman-Brunk; and a daughter Ann Caroline (Bowman) McCoy and her spouse Doug McCoy of Clarksburg, Md., and their children Alexander and Phoenix McCoy. Her nephews, Scott Carr and wife Wanda, of Bridgeton, N.J., Steffan Carr and wife Leslie, and niece Sharon Carr, all of Westernport, Maryland; and her many extended cousins.
Due to the developing nature of the COVID-19 virus delta variant, there will be a private family graveside service and a future Memorial Service will be held to celebrate her life when national health conditions will again permit us to gather. Before making plans or traveling, please refer to and check back at Schaeffer Funeral Home’s Web site, https://www.schaefferfuneralhome.com, for the latest, up-to-the-minute information on the Memorial Service.
Those wishing to offer memorial contributions may direct them in the name of the deceased to the Maysville Bible Brethren Church, Maysville, W. Va., St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, or an animal charity of their choice.
To send flowers to Norma's family, please visit our floral store.