Essex Junction, Vermont - It is with heavy hearts that we report the passing of our mother, Jane Ann Shepard Bowley Boudreau on April 29, 2020. Jane passed away peacefully due to natural causes after a period of declining health at the UVM Medical Center, surrounded by her seven sons. She was a few weeks shy of 83. She will be greatly missed and dearly remembered.
This is the story of a simple but remarkable woman, a woman of great strength and selflessness, the matriarch of our family, and a reliable source of friendship and support for all who knew her.
Our mother was born Jane Ann Shepard in New Haven CT on May 26, 1937, the first of five children. Growing up in Connecticut, her family eventually relocated to Queen City Park in So. Burlington, VT. Jane lived in “the Park” with her parents Howard (“Hockey”) and Mary, and her siblings Howard Jr. (Butch), Eileen (GiGi), John and eventually Guy Joe. At the age of 18 she married another resident of the Park, Reginald R. Bowley Sr. “The Park” has always been the origin of both our mother’s and father’s families, and a Bowley still lives there to this day.
Beginning in January of 1956, the kids started coming. Four boys, a girl, and then three more boys. Between the eldest and youngest boy is a span of eight years and five days. Eight children in eight years. Our mother’s obstetrician, Dr. Taber, was on a first name basis with Mom - “Hello Jane. Back again!” Mom was a tiny woman, but she was strong. During these eight years our growing family lived in the Park for a while, then for a short time in Westford. In 1962 we moved into a house on Park St. in Essex Junction. Mom lived in that house for the rest of her life.
Those early years with eight kids and an abusive husband were extremely difficult. Finally, in 1965, with the youngest child just an infant, our mother divorced our father and became a single mom. She’d had enough. I remember the night this happened, when all these strangers suddenly showed-up at our house - my mother’s family, whom we had never seen before. With their support our mother made the transition to being a single mother with 8 kids.
Mom had no job then, and had never finished high school, but one of the first things she did was to go to night school and get her GED. She was very proud of this. We mainly survived on welfare from the State and a lot of free government surplus food, and it was tough. Eventually Mom got a job working as a waitress at night at Joe Barry’s, a roadhouse on Williston Road in So. Burlington. She had this job for many years.
Working nights into the early morning hours, trying to get some sleep during the day and riding herd on seven boys and a girl was a challenge, but during these years something else was happening, an example of Mom’s character. As a waitress in a roadhouse my mother met a lot of other single mothers and people who were down on their luck, and often these people and their kids would end up staying at our house. In the small three bedroom, one bathroom house with eight kids, we’d often have other moms and their kids staying with us for anywhere from a week to several months. We didn’t like this at all. We’d ask “Why are they here?” Mom would answer “Because they need help”. Thinking back on it Mom was supporting them, but they were also supporting her. Remember that our mother was young; maybe Mom was lonely. Another thing they usually brought with them was an automobile, something we never had, and was essential in Mom getting back and forth from work. My mother has NEVER driven a car. She
said she tried it once, but it made her nervous. Our mother was an extremely caring person, would help anyone - she knew what it was like to be in need.
From a kid’s point of view, life on Park St was pretty good. As can be expected, we were not heavily supervised by Mom and did what we wanted, but Mom was always there when we needed her. There were other families near us (the Workmans, Kents, Ziters, Reynolds, etc.) and we had many friends. There was always baseball or sledding on the hill behind our house, fishing in the Perch Hole or kickball and the Brickrette game over at Workmans. The local authorities knew where we lived. In the evening Ma would stand on her back step and holler for us to come to supper. You’d come in to find the entire stove top covered in frying pans, and Ma trying to keep up with us as we devoured everything she made. We didn’t have a regular kitchen table - we had a picnic table in the kitchen. It was the only thing that could stand up to the punishment. Then, she’d clean up, get ready and go to work. We were poor, but we didn’t really know it. One thing that Ma really excelled at was Christmas. Somehow, we ALWAYS had a good Christmas. For many years Ma slept at the top of the stairs on Christmas eve to prevent us from seeing the presents under the tree before dawn. We were always up way before dawn, and the tree was always amazing. All of our friends knew and loved Mrs. Bowley, as did all our neighbors on Park St. Every one could always count on her, no matter what.
Jane met a man at work, Lionel T. (Lou) Boudreau, and they were married in 1978. They were married for 36 years. What can you say about a man who would marry a woman with the better part of eight kids still living at home. He was a quiet man and a good father to us, and took very good care of Mom. Lou was an Air Force veteran and active in the VFW Post 6689, and Mom became active in it as well. She was vice president of the Women’s Auxiliary and a member of the honor guard, and marched in many Memorial Day parades in Essex Junction, proudly waving the American Flag. She had many friends at the VFW. And Lou was the love of her life - they had many wonderful years together. Lou passed away in 2014.
Mom continued living alone in her house on Park St. Lou was gone, and all the kids were gone. It was a difficult time for her, but she had a lot of support from her children who mostly by now had families of their own. Mom was a wonderful grandmother. Family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas were always important to Mom. You’d walk into the back shed of her house and see pies everywhere. She was an awesome cook. There’s one dish she made that needs to be highlighted - Ma’s mac and cheese. A simple recipe, with stewed tomatoes and a wonderful saltine cracker crust impregnated with cheese, and the macaroni always overcooked. Attempts to replicate Ma’s mac and cheese by girlfriends and spouses over the years can best be described by two words - woefully inadequate. Nobody had Ma’s touch. It was a requirement at every family gathering; we always knew what Ma was bringing. There were never leftovers.
In 2016 Mom suffered a stroke, which somewhat impaired her speech and comprehension. She spent some time in the hospital, in rehab, and even living with one of her sons, but she was a fiercely independent woman, and only wanted to be home. We thought maybe she’d try assisted living, but we had to make a deal with her. We said “Ma - give it a month”. When that month was over - to the day - she said “It’s been a month. Get me out of here - this place is full of old people”. We managed to convince her doctor that she was capable of living alone. After all the years of cooking and cleaning and managing her household, we knew everything was pretty much automatic for Ma, and we were right. During this time she suffered the loss of her two younger brothers, Guy Joe and John. This was especially difficult for her; she was the last of the
Shepard family. She spent the last few years doing her thing in her own house, always with the support of her family. We like to think she was happy.
Now - there is a void. For the first time in our lives, Ma is not there. We are grateful to have been in the room with her - all eight of us - at the end to tell her good-bye. We understand that we were blessed to have had this woman as our mother. So many stories, but words are inadequate…We Love You, Ma.
Jane Ann Shepard/Bowley/Boudreau will be interred next to her husband Lionel T. Boudreau in the Vermont Veterans Cemetery in Randolph Vermont. Her family would like to thank the staff at the UVM Medical Center for making it possible in these extraordinary times for all of us to be with our Mother at her passing. We’d like to thank Dr. Karen Abernathy and all the nurses and staff at the Given Adult Primary Care office for their support and compassion during these last few years. We’d also like to thank John D. Workman of the A.W. Rich Funeral Home, another kid from Park St., for his exceptional support in the arrangements for both Lou and Ma - he understands as well. Finally, to Mom’s care giver for the last several weeks, Pauline Schettini.
We’re grateful to have had you to care for our Mother. Thank you.
Jane is survived by all eight of her children: Reginald R. Bowley Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bowley of Port Kent, NY, Ronald R. Bowley and his wife Julia Richardson of Grand Isle, VT, Shane S. Bowley and his wife Janice Russotti of So. Burlington, VT, William B. Bowley of Burlington, VT, Regina M. Drake and her husband Timothy of Lake Worth, FL, Lewyt L. Bowley and his wife Jody Blanchard-Bowley of Williston, VT, Adam A. Bowley and his wife Cathy Bowley of Huntington, VT, and Neil E. Bowley and his wife Leslie Bowley of Shelburne, VT. She is also survived by several nieces, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and a dear sister-in- law, Jean Shepard of So. Burlington, VT.
Funeral arrangements are by the A.W. Rich funeral Home of Essex Junction, VT. Regrettably, in these uncertain times there will be no public service. Contributions in memory of Jane Boudreau can be made to VFW Post 6689 in Essex Junction, VT.
Undoubtedly, a Celebration of Life will be held every time the Bowley family gathers. Ma will always be with us. We will hold her in our Hearts forever…