It has been written that soon after George E. Bowker arrived by Colonist Car in Ponoka from Quebec in 1906 he would become a community entrepreneur who went on to leave his mark on our early settlement and growth in many unique and special ways. The young Bowker and his wife ran a livery stable, helped out at the General Store and as our first undertaker, also started a funeral service as a sideline business.
The funeral home and the livery stable operated out of one building located along Railway Street in the central part of town. In the beginning the funeral home could not generate enough income to operate by itself, so the horse-drawn black funeral coach was kept in front of the stable and the caskets were stored in a log building nearby the first Ponoka School.
Success came very quickly for the energetic Mr. Bowker who as well as running his funeral home, also went to work for the local Revelstoke Lumber Company in 1912. After a brief stint in Regina the family returned to Ponoka in 1917, where Bowker started his own lumberyard at the corner of 51st Ave. and 51st St., as well as maintaining his funeral home right next door. A paragraph in the Ponoka Panorama History book stated that over the years George Bowker sold enough lumber to build the whole town, as well as enough coal to keep the home fires burning during the cold months.
In 1926 Bowker’s competition would be the construction of the new Cline and Nelson Funeral Home in Ponoka. In the same year, a young man named Arthur Bascom worked for George in the lumberyard, and was always known as his dedicated right- hand man. Together they would operate the funeral home on Chipman Avenue, and then after a fire forced the competition to rebuild a new Funeral Home in 1929, the Bowker family responded by erecting a splendid new facility in the area where the present Ponoka Funeral Home is now located. For many years the exquisite lineal vertical geometry of this modern new funeral home was the only surviving example of an Art Deco façade in downtown Ponoka!
George Bowker loved spending time with his wife Ida and two sons George Elwyn and Hugh Neal; and when he wasn’t involved with his many business ventures, he might also be found out and about in the community as a faithful supporter and choir leader at the Ponoka United Church. He was also a longstanding member of the Masonic Lodge, Eastern Star, I.O.O.F. Lodge, Elks, local School Board, and Town Council. On April 1, 1931 the Alberta Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association was incorporated and George Bowker would become the esteemed first president.
In 1946 Mr. Bowker sold his lumber business to Beaver Lumber, bought out and closed the Nelson Funeral Home and dedicated his later years to operating his now financially secure funeral business. George Bowker’s wife passed away in the late 1940s, after which he remarried, and diligently carried on the family business and community service until his passing on May 24, 1947 at the age of 63. Family friend Art Bascom was then hired to manage the funeral home and the name was changed to Bowker and Bascom Funeral Home until its sale to Connelly-McKinley of Edmonton in June of 1965. Both George Bowker and Arthur Bascom were involved and very much respected in Ponoka business and community circles for close to 40 years. Arthur was one of six children of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bascom, Edward was one of the first rural delivery mailmen in Alberta and carried his mail over a 50-mile route through all weather conditions three times a week.
Jack Carter managed the Bowker Funeral Home until its sale to an independent group in June 1983, after which extensive interior and exterior modifications were completed. Bowker Funeral Homes (Ponoka) Ltd. was owned and operated by Les and Alberta Willis until February 1994, when it was purchased by the Marlon Wombold family.
Construction began on a new facility in April 2005, and the original sight of the Bowker Funeral Home became known as the Ponoka Funeral Home when the new building opened in December of 2005. It is a great tribute to the dedicated owners who have strived to maintain the fine tradition of compassionate care and special services to countless Ponoka and district families at these facilities for over 100 years.