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RIP Velma Bowen

I was very sorry to hear the news yesterday of Velma Bowen's death, even though recent reports had indicated this news would come sooner than later. When she announced in July that she had cancer, it very quickly became clear that the prognosis was not good. Only a few days ago it was announced that she had three weeks left at the most. It turned out she had far less than that.

I didn't know Vijay well, but I'd heard of her before I met her. She came to Vanguard parties at least a couple of times back when they were held in the house where Jane still lived with Vonda. On at least one occasion she showed pictures from some kind of cabaret or burlesque show she'd done in NYC, where she lived at the time. She was that relatively rare nerd who was also a sexual exhibitionist. I was a bit in awe of her.

I'm pretty sure it was after those Vanguard visits that she won TAFF in 1999. Her name continued to be relatively high profile within fannish circles, and I probably saw her online in those days, including eventually here on LiveJournal. When she and Soren moved to Seattle a few years later, I saw her more often and learned more about her interest in singing at piano bars, of which there were none in Seattle. We shared a taste for good beer (I still have a growler she left at last year's TAFF party), and she and Soren and I once met at the Big Time for a lovely afternoon of beer and geeky chat. Amongst other things, she told me she was related to another TAFF winner (and another New Yorker), Elliott Shorter, which I hadn't known before.

She'd had other serious health problems over the years. She also took care of Soren after his stroke a few years back. She missed New York, but she knew how important it was for Soren to be close to his family in his disabled state. She has died far too young, and I'm so sorry for Soren and for all who loved her. I did not know her well personally, but she was a key figure in our community. I hope she finds that piano bar in the afterlife that she could never find in Seattle.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
gerisullivan
Oct. 20th, 2014 07:12 am (UTC)
Sympathy, and many thanks for writing this. Like you, I didn't know her well, but it seems like I've known her forever. Not quite 30 years, but more than 25. We ran into each other at conventions (Corflu, mostly) and some fannish parties in New York, always happy to see each other, but only occasionally talking at length.

She wrote about modeling fetish wear in Science-Fiction Five-Yearly #10 and illustrated by Reed Waller. I'm glad to have had the pleasure of publishing that piece, glad to have known her however little I did. And angry at the universe for doing what it does.

RIP, Velma.
randy_byers
Oct. 20th, 2014 03:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Geri. I've pulled SFFY #10 off the shelf for a re-read.
smofbabe
Oct. 21st, 2014 03:41 am (UTC)
I was very sorry to hear this news as well. I intersected with Velma during four months or so as a newlywed during my first marriage when my ex-husband Neil was finishing a grad degree in New Jersey and we spent some time with the NY fan community.

She is the star of one of my favorite stories about fandom: Before we got married while we were still just friends, Neil (originally from New York but he had moved to Israel when he was 16) came to the US to do a grad degree in NJ but didn't really have much in common with the other people in his program. I suggested that he get in touch with SF fans in NY and gave him some names. He went to a party at Marc and Donna's and was staying the night in their living room when at about 2 am, Velma apparently came into the room stark naked and basically said the equivalent of "How about it?", an offer that Neil politely declined. He said later that he then had one of the most bizarre experiences of his life, explaining his views on sexuality to a beautiful naked woman at 2 in the morning!

Edited at 2014-10-21 03:42 am (UTC)
randy_byers
Oct. 21st, 2014 03:03 pm (UTC)
Ha! I don't think I knew you'd been previously married.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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