Devoted coach, father and husband remembered for ‘bringing out the best’ in people throughout life – Elk Grove Citizen

Posted: April 18, 2020 at 5:44 pm


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By Kerensa Uyeta-Buckley

Sports Editor

In middle school, Justis Bowers (now Daigler) got pedicures with her friends to celebrate a birthday. Not only did her dad, Joe, take them to the salon, he sat right next to them and got a pedicure too.

When Joes son, J.C. Bowers, played basketball for Bradshaw Christian High School in his senior year, Joe was happy to coach his son.

Family meant everything to Joe, and when his wife, Melissa, coached Bradshaw Christians volleyball team to a Sac-Joaquin Section Championship in 2016, Joe, who was known to lead the fans in an occasional cheer during games, cried.

His playful, giving and loving nature defined Joe to those who spent time with him. That time he spent as a basketball coach, father, husband and friend was stunningly cut short on April 10, however, when he passed away after a lengthy battle with leukemia with Melissa by his side in San Francisco.

Joes re-emergence of cancer came out of nowhere, however. After a grim diagnosis over the summer, he had made nearly a complete turnaround and was on a careful but optimistic road to recovery.

In March, after three to four weeks of experiencing headaches, Joe went to the emergency room at UC Davis on March 28 after showing some numbness and not being able to talk fully.

Doctors discovered a bleed on his brain and he was released then went for a follow-up April 1 at University of California, San Francisco, where doctors discovered his cancer had returned full force and had spread into his brain and spinal fluid, Melissa Bowers said.

During his time in the hospital, the Bowers family Facetimed with Joe, with Justis in Fort Bragg, J.C. in Australia, and Melissa from home due to amped-up measures surrounding hospitals regarding COVID-19.

After three rounds of chemotherapy, on April 8, however, his doctor informed Melissa that the treatment wasnt working. Treatment was stopped, and Melissa drove from Sacramento to be with her husband immediately.

During a time where he could have focused on himself or thought negatively, instead the 67 former college basketball player and longtime high school coach turned his attention to something bigger, Melissa said.

At the end, Wednesday or Thursday night before he passed, I asked him, Joe, are you scared? Although he couldnt communicate very well, he had to struggle to talk, he said, No, Im not scared, I just want to make this about Christ, which was really huge for us. He wanted to encourage me, his students, (everyone); theres something bigger here and Gods up to something, Melissa said.

That faith, as well as his strength, were two traits that also had become familiar aspects of Joes nature to those who were in his life.

Joe could read me, and one of the best conversations Ive had with anybody was about a year and a half ago. He pulled me aside and just talked to me and gave me some words of encouragement. Next thing I know, we were talking for three hours till midnight, J.J. Mina, who played for Joe in high school and coached with him at Bradshaw Christian as well, said. He realized I was hurting.

Mina and current Pride varsity boys basketball head coach Alex Williams won the Sac-Joaquin Section Championship in 2009 as players at Bradshaw Christian under former head coach Mike Ruble, with Joe on the coaching staff as well.

The team went 12-1 in the Sac Metro League that year, and beat Forest Lake Christian for the Section Championship, 55-52.

This year, Mina, Williams and Bowers all coached another formidable Pride roster to the SJS title game as well as the semifinals of the CIF Nor Cal playoffs, which is further than any Pride team had reached in program history, Williams said.

It was equally hard for both of us, Williams said of himself and Mina when they found out Joe had passed away. I think what we were both saying was it was almost like God gave him another six months to have a victory lap, of sorts [after struggling in the summer of 2019 with both leukemia and a fungal infection before recovering]. I know Joe really enjoyed this past year of basketball.

Bowers was the Prides head coach before handing the team to Williams for the 2019-20 season so that the team could focus on basketball while he recovered. Last week, Williams informed the team through text and phone calls of his passing.

Ive had a lot of kids reach out to me and say he was a good man, Im going to miss him. Whether you really knew Joe that well or saw him in passing, he made an impact on people. Having him around, he taught me a lot as a coach. This was my first year as a head coach and having him be a part of that was pretty special.

Joe has always been the father type of coach and, of course, he knew the game of basketball like no other. He would do anything for anybody, Mina said. He was just a selfless person and when I say hed give you the shirt off his back, he would.

Never one to shy away from yelling while coaching a game if he had to, Joes experience with basketball was honed from his days playing in high school and at Sacramento City College, Cosumnes River College and Bethany College.

He coached at Capital Christian, which also turned out to be the site of the Prides last playoff game, from the late 90s to 2004 before moving on to other schools, including Bradshaw Christian.

He had a way of bringing out the best. Id say he brought out more, Melissa said of Joes coaching strategy.

One highlight in his personal life was walking Justis down the aisle at her April 2019 wedding three weeks after his stem cell transplant.

His impact on others families will be felt far beyond his own in the coming years, as Williams noted.

As I grow up, I just had a daughter, shes two months old, hes the kind of guy you look up to, Williams said of Joe. Those are the kinds of things you just look up to with a guy like that. He just possesses a lot of qualities that are hard to match.

Melissa said that, although the family cant hold the service it would have liked for Joe because of social distancing restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, shed like to hold one when she is able to, as soon as possible.

Our hope is that maybe in June or July we will have a celebration of life. In the meantime, were still making plans for family and how we want to do that. But I know that I want all these friends and family and also so many students to be able to say goodbye, said Melissa.

In that time, peers will be able to remember the man who once became a human ice cream sundae, had life-long friendships that reached as far back as second grade, and whod drop everything to be there for his family.

He never made excuses for anything. He didnt give you an excuse. He was always making people laugh, Mina said.

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Devoted coach, father and husband remembered for 'bringing out the best' in people throughout life - Elk Grove Citizen

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April 18th, 2020 at 5:44 pm

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