By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
In a span of nine weeks, a second former Laurel County Jailer has died.
“Big John” Bowling, 72, died Sunday night from complications from congestive heart failure. He served as Jailer from 1978 to 1988.
Bowling’s death came exactly nine weeks after the death of former jailer, Jack Sizemore, who died on Feb. 9.
According to Bowling’s daughter, Barbara Wells, the family was celebrating Easter Sunday with a family dinner when Bowling began feeling ill. He agreed to go to the hospital, Wells said. However, Bowling collapsed as family members were helping him get into a vehicle to go to the emergency room. Paramedics arrived and transported Bowling to Saint Joseph London, where he was pronounced dead at 7:29 p.m.
Wells said Bowling had seen his cardiologist in Lexington just last Wednesday for the congestive heart failure and was told he was “living on borrowed time” and given some medication adjustments.
“He’s been sick for a long time,” she said.
Bowling was recognized as “Jailer of the Year” in 1978 and 1979 and received the honor of having the Laurel County facility named as “Best Jail” in 1978. His contributions to the community were honored both locally and nationally. In 2012, Bowling received an award from the Laurel County Republican Party for his service to his community. He was featured in The Sentinel-Echo’s Spring 2012 “Silver” magazine and was recognized by United States Senator Mitch McConnell with a tribute that is now a part of the U.S. Congressional Record. He was known for his kindness and dedication to his family and his community.
“I’ve never heard anyone anywhere say a bad word about Big John Bowling,” said Laurel Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Acciardo. “He was a fine gentleman.”
Acciardo, who retired from the Kentucky State Police before joining the Sheriff’s Office in 2010, worked closely with Bowling during his career with the state police.
“He was a top of the line guy,” Acciardo said. “We have lost a true friend of Laurel County.”
Current Jailer Jamie Mosley said Bowling was his own inspiration in running the jail today.
“He was such a kind person and everyone loved him,” Mosley said. “He is my inspiration in how to treat people, and he was so supportive of me when I was running for Jailer. It inspired me on how many inmates remembered him and thought so much of him.”
In fact, Mosley brought back the policy of decorating the jail during the Christmas holidays — a tradition that was standard during Bowling’s days as jailer.
“I reflect back to the lighting of the jail two years ago where we honored Big John,” Mosley said. “The look on his face showed how much it meant to him. Last year, he was ill and couldn’t make it to the lighting. I’m so glad we brought this back and he got to see it.”
Barb Rudder, a long-time employee of the jail, also had nothing except kind words for her former boss.
“He was a good person to work for,” Rudder said. “We don’t always please everybody here in the jail, but when people get out and then talk good about you, you’ve done well. I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about Big John Bowling.”
Rudder said Mosley reminded her of Bowling in that he tried to be kind and considerate to inmates, staff, family members and the public — the same characteristics that marked Bowling’s high regard by the people who knew him.
“When Mr. Sizemore died, he (Mosley) let us go to the funeral and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing again,” Rudder said. “He even went with us to the funeral home and funeral. He’s stood by us, just like Mr. Bowling did.”
A wreath of white flowers is now placed just outside the door of the jail, “In Loving Memory of Big John Bowling.”
Bowling was a member of the Circle of Faith Holiness Church and a member of the McKee Masonic Lodge 144 F.&A.M. He and his wife, Imogene, were married for 43 years.
A complete obituary for Bowling is listed on Page 6A.