FROM THE FARM: Gov. Otis Bowen and wife Beth were Hoosier famed names

2013-05-08T00:00:00Z FROM THE FARM: Gov. Otis Bowen and wife Beth were Hoosier famed namesBy Philip Potempa (219) 852-4327

When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced Sunday that former Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen died Saturday, it ended a chapter in Hoosier history.

Bowen, 95, died at a nursing home in Donaldson, a community about 25 miles south of South Bend that is near Bowen's hometown of Bremen.

Bowen had four children with his first wife, Beth, who died of cancer on New Year's Day 1981, just days before her husband's second gubernatorial term ended. His son, Robert, tried to extend the Bowen family election success, but lost to another second-generation politician, Evan Bayh, in the 1986 race for Indiana secretary of state. Bayh was later elected governor.

In my original "From the Farm" cookbook from 2004, one of the recipes I included was an old treasured find for a sweet potato dish courtesy of Indiana's former first lady, Beth Bowen, the late first wife of Gov. Otis Bowen.

It was actually a recipe credited from the couple's cook Alvania West, from their days in the governor's mansion.

The recipe was given to me by Auntie Lottie, who is 89 and now lives retired near Sarasota, Fla., not far from another of my dad's sisters, Auntie Loretta.

As for the recipes from Beth Bowen in Auntie Lottie's file, she said they came from a political event she attended with her husband of 55-years, Uncle Swede in the late 1970s while they were still living at their farm near our family farm.

She showed me the original recipe cards, which include complete themed menus and  a sketch of the Bowen Family Lodge in Bremen, Ind.

A retired physician, Bowen served as the 44th Governor of Indiana from 1973 to 1981, and then as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services from 1985 to 1989 for President Ronald Reagan.

He married Beth (Elizabeth Anne Steinmann) in 1939 and they had four children. Following her death, he married Rose May Hochstetler, a widow from Bremen, in September 1981 and she died a decade later in 1991. Since 1992, he had been married to third wife Carol Hahn Bowen, who had been a patient of his some 30 years earlier, during which time he delivered her two children.

The funeral for Bowen will be held 11 a.m. Friday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in his hometown of Bremen. Mishler Funeral Home in Bremen says the calling hours will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the church.

Since we have lots of rhubarb ready at the farm, Auntie Lottie suggested I share with readers Beth Bowen's recipe for her "Easy Rhubarb Upside Down Cake" as a tart tribute to this sweet couple.

Beth Bowen's Easy Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

1 tablespoon butter

4-6 cups fresh clean and diced rhubarb

1 cup white granulated sugar

1 (3-ounce) box strawberry gelatin

1 (15- ounce) box yellow cake mix

2 to 3 eggs (as directed on box instructions)

1/3 cup vegetable oil (or as directed on box instructions)

DIRECTIONS: Heavily butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch-by-13-inch cake pan. Prepare, rinse and cut up rhubarb, adding enough to cover the bottom of the cake pan. Spread the 1 cup of sugar over the rhubarb in bottom of pan. Sprinkle the 1 package of gelatin over the sugar and rhubarb in the pan. Mix the package of cake mix with needed ingredients as directed on box and pour over the rhubarb layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or more, until tests done. Serve as you would a pineapple upside down cake. Makes 16 serving slices. Delicious warm with vanilla ice cream!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

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