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He’s traveled the globe, served his country, his heart is at home

IU Health University Hospital

He’s traveled the globe, served his country, his heart is at home

He is a U.S. Navy veteran and once worked for Krispy Kreme Donuts. The sweetest thing in Donald Bowling’s life is the love for his longtime sweetheart.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

From his hospital room in the bone marrow transplant unit of IU Health University Hospital, Donald Bowling shares his life story. It is much bigger than the scope of his hospital stay.

He was raised in Putnam County in a town of about 1,000 people and was one of 14 children. When his dad was promoted by General Motors, the family packed up and moved from Roachdale, Ind. to Mooresville. After graduating from High School, Bowling joined the U.S. Navy.

“I was just 18-and-five-days old and when I heard ‘mom, flag, and apple pie,’ they had me,” said Bowling, who turns 72 in July. His aptitude test showed a proficiency in language and the next thing he knew, he was enrolled in the Defense Language Institute. The US Department of Defense program offers linguistic and cultural instruction. Bowling was trained in Mandarin Chinese and served in Japan and Vietnam.

“I never thought I’d go to war. My dad served in WW II and Korea. I served on missions on ships, below the ocean, in the woods, and in the air,” said Bowling. He gained additional training in special weapons, survival skills, and radio-telephone.

He takes pride in serving his country.

“I have five sisters and eight brothers and five of us wore the uniform of our country. Three of us went to war,” said Bowling.

On the May afternoon he shared his story, Bowling referred to the date as one that will forever be in his memory. “Forty-nine years ago today I was out with my friends. I was getting married the next day and I told them that night would be the last time I ever had a drink. I was not taking alcohol into my marriage,” he recalls.

In 1973, he married the love of his life, Ellen. After the military, he went to work at the former Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) and that’s where he met the woman who would become his wife.

“I saw this little dark-haired girl and knew she was the one. Fourteen months later, we were married,” Bowling said. Ever since he first met her, Bowling carries Ellen’s picture in his wallet. This month, marks their 49th anniversary. Together they have one son, Dane Bowling.

“She is one of the sweetest human beings I’ve ever met. She never says a bad word about anyone and is always optimistic. There are people in the world that make you feel better because you met them and that’s Ellen,” he said.

After obtaining his business degree from Indiana University, Bowling continued working with IPL, retiring in 2000, just shy of his 50th birthday. But he got the bug to do something else and became a territory distributor for Krispy Kreme donuts. He later began working for a courier service.

“I’m a Type A Plus personality and I just don’t like to slow down,” said Bowling. He and his wife enjoy traveling and have visited England, Scotland and Mexico. He loves to fish and golf. “I’ve always enjoyed great health and even beat prostate cancer 22 years ago,” he said. He was also a patient at IU Health then.

But in December, after an auto mobile accident landed him in ICU, Bowling learned he has multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells.

“It was during some scans that they found the cancer. I was in the right place at the right time,” said Bowling. Since then, he has been in the care of IU Health Dr. Sherif Farag and has had two stem cell transplants.

“I’m happy and for the most part I feel healthy,” said Bowling. “This hospital is the best and I know that having the positive energy of my wife is helping me every day.”

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