Imogene Fortenberry Bowman was born Feb. 18, 1928, in Lubbock, Texas, to William Oliver “W.O.” “Bill” Fortenberry, Sr., and Bonnie Hutchins Fortenberry. She was the second of four children born to the couple.
Imogene’s family moved around the Texas Panhandle, living in Pep, Nazareth, Littlefield and Lubbock before settling in the small community of Monroe, 13 miles north of Lubbock. Monroe eventually was renamed New Deal. Imogene’s father was a cotton farmer and ginner who founded and owned Fortenberry Gin in New Deal. Imogene grew up in a house near the gin and across from cotton fields. From a young age, she was well-acquainted with the cotton industry, and it remained important to her the rest of her life.
Imogene’s parents valued education. Her mother graduated from West Texas Normal College in Canyon, Texas, in 1915, with a teaching certificate. She taught school in communities where the family lived. She definitely influenced Imogene to become a teacher. Her dad studied engineering at Burleson College near Greenville, Texas, where he played football. All four of the Fortenberry children attended college at Texas Tech.
Imogene’s mother loved to read and subscribed to news, home and women’s magazines, not very common in 1930s and 1940s West Texas. Imogene loved reading her parents’ magazines and books. She also read their encyclopedia set during summers, often while sitting high in the branches of a tree.
At New Deal High School, Imogene played basketball and also played cello in the orchestra. She took piano lessons for many years. She graduated high school as salutatorian, and then earned a bachelor’s degree in English and minor in history, with honors, from Texas Technological College. She then graduated with a master’s degree in English from Texas Tech.
While attending Texas Tech, Imogene belonged to Spanish Club. She was a hostess at Lubbock Symphony Orchestra events. She belonged to the Lubbock Women’s Club and participated in Texas Tech church college groups.
During college and afterward, she frequently snow-skied and rode horses at Sipapu, a resort friend Olive Matthews’ parents owned near Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Imogene taught English, reading and Texas history at Lubbock O.L. Slaton Junior High School in Lubbock for 12 years. During summers, she attended post-graduate classes at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, while considering pursuing a doctoral degree in English.
She never turned down an opportunity to travel. Imogene ventured to Mexico in summer 1954, on a trip sponsored by Texas Tech. For five weeks, she was part of a group of students, faculty members, alumni and others interested in studying Spanish and learning about the culture.
Another summer in the 1950s, she and friends journeyed to Europe. They visited Denmark, England, France, Germany and Scandinavia with the guidance of beloved friend, Mary Stroud. Imogene recalled being “stranded” in Paris for an extra two weeks because of a travel mix-up. Her group “survived” on bread and cheese while continuing to explore the City of Lights. She proudly financed the entire trip on her own.
In 1959, a friend offered to set up Imogene and Lubbock attorney Jim Bowman on a blind date. Both were very independent, so it took almost a year before they agreed to meet for coffee. (Ironically, they both attended Texas Tech at the same time and both graduated in 1949, never meeting while students.)
Imogene Fortenberry married Jim Bowman Aug. 25, 1961, at Second Baptist Church in Lubbock.
Jim often told daughter Jean Ann that Imogene was the best thing that ever happened to him.
No doubt about that.
After the Bowmans started their family, Imogene quit teaching and applied her love of education to her daughters, and later, to other young people. She was a docent at the Museum of Texas Tech University, gave tours and presented planetarium programs.
In addition to working at the museum, Imogene’s interest in Texas history and ranching was fulfilled as she gave tours at the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech for many years.
Imogene imparted to Jean Ann and Judy, and granddaughter, Sara, her love of reading, music, art and theater. She made sure the three experienced the arts. Her efforts resulted in her girls’ lifelong love of these things.
She also cared for her elderly parents as they aged. That effort was not lost on her daughters.
She was active in the Lubbock Women’s Club, Lubbock Symphony Guild, Heritage Club, 20th Century Club, Ex Libris Book Club, Lubbock Flower Club and her Sunday School class at Second Baptist Church. She also played bridge in several clubs with her husband and friends.
Imogene and Jim were members of the Texas Tech Alumni Association and avid supporters of Texas Tech Athletics. They were season ticket-holders for football and men’s and women’s basketball games for decades.
The Bowmans loved traveling and toured extensively in Mexico and other Central American countries; South America; Australia; New Zealand and Fiji. They visited Hawaii three times and traveled to England several times.
With their daughters, they took road trips throughout the Southern and Southwestern United States, from West to East Coasts and throughout the Midwest. They ventured to California several times. Virginia was a favorite destination.
Imogene and Jean Ann enjoyed two trips to England, one in 2005 and one in 2008, as well as a trip to Spain in 1984.
Imogene is predeceased by her parents; her husband; her sister, Betty Jane Fortenberry Smith, and her sister-in-law, Jean Smith Fortenberry. She is survived by her daughters, Jean Ann Cantore (Dan), and Judy Coats, both of Lubbock. Also surviving are granddaughter, Sara Coats Rogers (Christopher) and great-granddaughter, Harper Kay, of Southland; brothers, W.O. “Billy” Fortenberry, Jr., and Joe Fortenberry (Carolyn), as well as brother-in-law, Ed Smith, all of Lubbock. She leaves behind beloved nieces and nephews, as well as many cousins and friends.
Imogene had a sweet spirit and was kind to everyone. She encouraged those around her to be tolerant of differences and to leave a positive mark on this world.
She was an inspiration to all who knew her.