Legacies: Lives lived / past progressive – Peter Bowman

PETER BOWMAN, Editorial, Shunpiking Magazine

• My Thoughts on Pete Bowman by MARRIE BERKELAAR

• Biography by The Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone

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IT IS WITH GREAT SADNESS that we received the news of the passing away of Peter Bowman on 14 February 2006 at the age of 78. Shunpiking sends its deepest condolences to Mitzi, his beloved partner of 40 years, his family and his many friends and colleagues in Nova Scotia and the United States.

Pete, a native of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, lived and worked in Australia, New Zealand, South America and Canada before settling in New Haven. He was a dedicated campaigner against the us war of aggresion in Vietnam, and for over thirty years against the dangers from radioactive contanimation from US nuclear plants such as the Millstone Nuclear Power Station. A professional engineer, Pete testified at dozens of hearings before the us Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Bowmans founded several organizations to carry this struggle such as Don’t Waste Connecticut. They were indefatigable: at the age of 73 Pete was spending one day a week volunteering at the storefront of the Coalition Against Millstone in Mystic.

The Bowmans were ‘summer people’ who vacationed modestly in Heckmans Island, Lunenburg, those we call ‘the good Americans’ – who do not stand aloof from the concerns of Nova Scotians and humanity.

They were the first to contact Shunpiking and educate this magazine as to the serious dangers arising from the dumping by the Canadian Forces of six tonnes of Depleted Uranium shells – used as live ammunition by warships in exercises on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico – in the Bedford Basin. They contacted the fishermen of the Eastern Shore where DU shells had also been dumped during sea-to-shore firing exercises in Chezzetcook. They joined the Sierra Club, and were especially enthused about the concern and dedication of Nova Scotian youth.

In New England, Peter and Mitzi actively promoted Shunpiking and the Dossier on Palestine (2002), speaking out against the crimes of  Israeli Zionism. His selfless generosity, humanity, and wisdom touched many, as reflected by all those who gathered at a memorial service on 20 May in Connecticut.

Pete will be deeply missed and always be honoured as an ardent man of peace, a man of science, principle and humility.

Tony Seed, Shunpiking Magazine, Spring, 2006. Vol. 11, No 1 (Issue #48)

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My Thoughts on Pete Bowman

By MARRIE BERKELAAR, a Nova Scotian friend


When I speak of Pete, I must speak of Pete and Mitzi together as that is how we met and knew them, and I speak of “we”, for without Tom it is doubtful I would have gotten to know the Bowmans. We met Pete and Mitzi in 1988. They had just bought some property on Heckmans Island, near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. At the time, a new plastics plant was coming to Lunenburg, which was to accept military contracts, and indeed it later made the casings for the ADATS system which was used in the Gulf War. I had just met Tom Berger that winter when the announcement was made about the plant and Tom, being a long-time social activist, declared that we should oppose this war industry in our town. And so I was introduced to the world of social activism. That fall, Pete and Mitzi picked up one of our statements about the plastics plant, and gave us a call, and soon we met.

Pete and Mitzi were what we called ‘Summer People’, that is, people who had summer homes here and lived elsewhere in the winter. For Tom and I, the sign that summer had arrived was when Pete and Mitzi had returned. During the summer we would have them and other friends over for dinner. Over the years we had many serious discussions about the various problems in our society and what should be done about it. Naturally at times the discussions got rather heated, but Pete always kept his cool, calmly bringing the voice of reason to the conversation. Perhaps that was the engineer in him, the rest of us having a more artistic temperament.

And the sign that summer was finally over, was the meal we had with the Bowman’s just before they left. On our drive over to Heckmans Island, Tom would ask me, “What do you think we will have?”

“Chicken”, I would reply. “And what do you think we will have for desert?”

“One of Pete’s pies”, Tom would reply, for this was the traditional fare for the last meal, so to speak.

By now Pete had been diagnosed with cancer and was following a healthy diet to help fight it. The organic chicken was always delicious, stewed and tender, which reminded me of how my mother would do chicken. And there would be lots of vegetables, which I loved. But the pie … well … it’s pretty difficult to make a healthy pie crust that is tender and flaky when you can’t use the things that make it so, that is, shortening and white flour, and the lack of sugar didn’t help; but Pete deserves a medal for trying and he never gave up on the idea. We dutifully ate our desert and asked for seconds. Actually it wasn’t bad as long as you didn’t think “pie”.

They could have peacefully retired on Heckmans Island, but never for a moment did they retire from their social activism.

When Pete and Mitzi had their car accident, all of Heckmans Island was sure they would never be back; however, Tom and I were not so sure. We missed them that next summer but, sure enough, the next year they were back. We had always been impressed with their determination and inspired with their dedication to the opposition of radioactive contamination, their participation in the anti-war movement, their concern for the environment and social justice. They could have peacefully retired on Heckmans Island, but never for a moment did they retire from their social activism. So cancer and a broken back for Pete and a smashed leg for Mitzi, did not stop them!

In the fall of 2004, Tom and I were driving from Heckmans Island where we had been getting the Bowman’s cottage ready for their last return as Pete’s health was failing, when Tom died suddenly of a heart attack.  For me, this was an end of an era, with Tom gone and the Bowman’s not returning, for although we did not spend huge amounts of time together, our lives had been entwined over those years with our common concern for the well-being of humanity. And now Pete’s life has also ended.

What we do with our lives becomes a part of history. Those who dedicate their lives unselfishly to make the world a better place, no matter how little impact it may seem to have at the time, with the collective push of many others, will be seen in history as the part of society that pushed the world into true civilization; into a world fit for human existence. Pete has his place in this history; the world is a better place because of his life. Pete, we thank you.

 * * *


The Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone

PETER BOWMAN, a mechanical design engineer and passionate anti-nuclear activist who campaigned against nuclear power and nuclear weapons over three decades, died of cancer on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2006. He was 78 years old.

Well known to the operators of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station for his sharp, insightful, informed comments challenging decisions to keep the facility operating, Pete testified at dozens of hearings and meetings before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Waterford and he participated in court and administrative proceedings in Hartford and at rallies across the state.

In 1999, Pete testified in the Connecticut Superior Court in support of a temporary restraining order which kept the Millstone Unit 2 reactor shut down for more than a week during the peak of winter flounder larvae migration toward the plant’s intake structures. Pete was also actively involved in the groundswell of whistleblower complaints which resulted in Millstone’s reactors being shut down for two years for extensive repairs.

Before Millstone Unit 3’s reactor was built, Pete and his beloved wife and 40-year partner, Mitzi, participated in hearings convened by TNPEC (Temporary Nuclear Power Evaluation Council), to oppose the new reactor. They were joined by Dr. Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Pete and Mitzi and their own organization, Don’t Waste Connecticut, were charter members of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone when it was created in 1999 to unite opposition to expansion of the Millstone Unit 3 spent fuel pool capacity. They volunteered one day a week at the Coalition’s storefront in Mystic from 1999 to 2000, recruiting volunteers and sharing information about the deadly health and environmental dangers of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

Through Don’t Waste Connecticut, Pete and Mitzi intervened in a Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection proceeding objecting to the incineration of radioactive and other toxic materials at the regional WPCA sewage plant in New Haven.

Pete’s anti-nuclear activism began in earnest in 1976 when Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island planned to send six shipments of “spent” nuclear fuel rods on flat-bed trucks on the New London ferry into Connecticut, having been refused entry into New York City. The plan was to transport the high-level nuclear waste on I-95 from New London to New Haven, then onto Route 34 through the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, past Pete and Mitzi’s home.

Pete and Mitzi organized to halt this dangerous shipping route and thus was born STOP (Stop the Transport of Pollution).

At that time, Pete had helped to organize local opposition to the war in Vietnam and was opposed to the testing and use of nuclear weapons, but he had little awareness of the problems created by commercial nuclear power until he learned of Brookhaven’s plan. Having seen two trucks turn over near their home on the narrow, winding Route 34, Pete and Mitzi were concerned for their children’s safety and they began making phone calls to Gov. Ella Grasso, Newtown’s board of selectmen, their local representatives, organizations and neighbours.

Once Gov. Grasso took a look at the map, she ordered that the high-level nuclear waste be shipped via Routes 66 and I-84, avoiding Route 34.

During the STOP campaign, Pete and Mitzi were introduced by Newtown resident, songwriter and author, the late Ed Eliscu, to experts in the field of nuclear science and learned about the industry, its connection with nuclear weapons, and about the big lie that nuclear power was “clean, safe and would be too cheap to meter.”


Tanker truck rolls over on Route 34 February 25, 2006 – Just as Pete & Mitzi Bowman foresaw

From then on, Peter and Mitzi devoted themselves to the struggle to shut down the nuclear industry, including the three Millstone reactors in Waterford on Niantic Bay, Connecticut Yankee’s reactor at Haddam Neck on the Connecticut River and the successful struggle to stop the Shoreham reactor on Long Island.

When the family moved to New Haven, Pete and Mitzi, with other residents, formed Don’t Waste Connecticut, developed its resource center, spoke and were active in building opposition to this deadly industry involving demonstrations, hearings, lobbying and community outreach.

Peter Bowman was born on January 21, 1928 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, the youngest of three boys. During World War II, he joined the British navy and served on a mine-sweeper. Later, he migrated to Australia where he lived for about 12 years, working in the outback in a sheep-shearing shed. Other jobs as a laborer included working on a ferry in Sydney and tunnel building at Woomera. While in Australia he became a draftsman and was certified as a mechanical engineer. Pete spent a year in New Zealand working for the forestry industry. In his free time, he enjoyed spelunking, exploring caves on the “shaky island.”

Pete next traveled through South America, always taking third-class transportation and living simply among the peasantry.

Pete found a job as an engineer in Canada and then came to Connecticut to work as an itinerant “job shopper” in engineering in the mid-sixties. There he met his future wife, Mitzi Silver.

Shortly after their marriage in 1966, Pete was assigned to Schick Razor Co. in Milford where he was asked to “go captive.” There he worked as a mechanical design engineer until retirement. Pete earned his degree in environmental engineering from the University of New Haven.

If there is one message Peter wanted to impress on the people of Connecticut and beyond, it was that nuclear power, a killer of children and their elders, is a part of, and necessary, to the nuclear weapons industry. His hope was that the peace and anti-nuclear weapons movements and the anti-nuclear power forces would join together in fighting this major threat to our health and survival. He believed that without this alliance, we cannot win the struggle against this twin evil.

To advance our community’s struggle for peace, security, health and social and environmental justice, Pete helped found the Progressive Action Roundtable and served actively on the board of its monthly newsletter until his 11-year battle against cancer overcame him.

Pete leaves two children, a grand-daughter, great grand-daughter and his wife, all of whom loved him dearly. Pete was dearly loved by all who came to know him.

Pete donated his body to the Yale Medical School in service to humanity.

A memorial service to celebrate Pete’s life will be held in the spring at a date to be announced.

Source: http://www.mothballmillstone.org/news2006.html£bowman

1 Comment

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One response to “Legacies: Lives lived / past progressive – Peter Bowman

  1. My hero was Peter Bowman. Gurdev.com
    Mr. Bowman showed me anything can be fixed or made. A true renaissance man. From sailing to wood stove making, reading between the lines, patents and especially car repair, Mr. Bowman taught me so much. I had the fortune to be best friends with his son during my youth. Really a great man. I love and miss you dearly Mr Bowman. If you use a disposable razor to shave, you can thank Mr Bowman, a true pioneer in the field and part inventor of the most popular razor in Japan to this day.


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