LOS LUNAS — New Mexico has lost a dedicated newspaperman, father and community servant.
Someone who engaged fully and wholeheartedly in his passions, Dana Bowley, 73, of Los Lunas, died on Monday, Dec. 28.
Many in Valencia and Socorro counties knew Bowley from his years as a reporter, editor and general manager at newspapers in those communities.
Others will remember him as a devoted parishioner at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Los Lunas. A founder of the church, which was completed in 2012, Bowley was a long-time member of the bishop’s committee and served as treasurer for the church.
Bowley and his late wife, Melanie, moved to Los Lunas in 1988, with their three children — Ryan Bowley, Laura Combs and Kristen Hammer. He had finished a six-month stint as the Roswell Daily Record’s state editor after working for the Carlsbad Current-Argus for eight years, leaving there as managing editor.
That year, he became the editor at the Valencia County News-Bulletin, where he stayed until 1993. When Bowley came to the paper, Sandy Battin had been a staff reporter for two years.
“He was the most remarkably calm person I ever met. I never saw him getting upset or anxious in any way; a consummate professional,” Battin said. “He was one of the best editors I ever worked with.”
As an editor, Bowley would sit down with reporters and help them polish stories until they shined.
“He was willing to take time and make your work better,” she said. “There he was, in the background, not getting any of the glory.”
Battin, who was the News-Bulletin editor from 1995 to 2009, said Bowley was knowledgeable, professional and funny — a wonderful person.
“His is another death that diminishes the richness of the community just that little bit more,” she said.
Bowley was always one to speak up and shine a light on issues in the community. When Laura was in high school, drunk driving in Los Lunas was a huge issue, so Bowley worked with the police department to highlight the problem.
“He rode along with the police and did sobriety check points. And I remember I had to stop at one — I wasn’t drinking, of course — and he was there,” his daughter, Laura, said. “He found ways to really highlight needs. He loved this community, absolutely loved it.”
In 1993, Bowley left the News-Bulletin after a corporate buyout and took a job as chief copy editor at the Albuquerque Tribune. He stayed at the Pulitzer Prize winning afternoon daily until June 2001 when it downsized.
Two years later, Bowley was hired as the general manager and editor at El Defensor Chieftain in Socorro, the News-Bulletin’s sister paper.
Dave Puddu was publisher of both papers at the time, and said Bowley had a passion for community journalism.
“Dana, like all good journalists, ended up performing a watchdog function and he did a good job,” Puddu said. “That’s not necessarily helpful to a company’s bottom line in a lot of cases, but the truth matters and that’s a price you have to pay.”
Bowley was well versed in New Mexico’s sunshine laws — the Open Meetings Act and the Inspection of Public Records Act — and was keenly aware of what was going on in the community, Puddu said.
He remembers Bowley using his voice to call attention to problems and having a “nose for news.”
“And he cared. When wrongs were happening, he cared about that,” he said. “He cared about journalism in general. He was a believer, passionate. He wasn’t in it to make money; it was more altruistic than that.”
“Dana Bowley was a wonderful journalist and a mentor to many in the industry,” said Clara Garcia, current editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin. “He taught us how to be better, how to be concise and always reminded us what our role is — to be fair, open-minded and honest.
“Dana returned to the News-Bulletin several times throughout his career, and we were always very grateful. He will be missed and his memory and the lessons he gave us will forever be cherished.”
After three years with the Chieftain, Bowley served as the executive director for the New Mexico Press Association until early January 2009, when he came back to the News-Bulletin.
Bowley was copy editor and reporter at the VCNB until September 2011, and again in the spring of 2019, helping to polish stories and writing his own on subjects as varied as mosquitoes and vector control, fatherhood and the foreclosure crisis during the recession.
He continued to support St. Matthew’s by helping Fr. Robert Mundy with services as a lay reader and at the altar, administering the Eucharist.
“He was a very devout man, both he and his wife, and really big on service,” Mundy said. “One of the big things he did was create and run a life-planning workshop. The idea was we all need to look at what to do when we die so we don’t leave a mess behind.”
As a member of the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew, Bowley and fellow brother, Jack Crowl, began project Roadblock, to increase the public’s awareness of human trafficking.
Bowley’s family is asking anyone who wants to remember him to make donations to the Roadblock project by sending a check to St. Matthew’s, 400 Hunning Ranch Loop West, Los Lunas, N.M., 87031, with the note “Roadblock NM” in the memo line.
“He is helping from beyond,” Mundy said. “He will be dearly missed.”
Devoted to his church, devoted to his craft, Bowley was also deeply devoted to his family. Married for nearly 50 years, Laura says her parents gave them the opportunity to grow and thrive.
“We often talk about how the three of us, we all came out really good. And that has to start someplace — at home,” she said.
Ryan remembers his father as always being generous and charitable with his time, as a Little League umpire and a volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club in Carlsbad, and serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care.
Well after retirement, Bowley continued to work and contribute to his community. Most recently, he was hired through a grant to be the computer specialist at the Belen Public Library.
Library Director Kathy Pickering said he focused on the people who needed help to improve their computer skills.
“He really helped us realize computers are not just a convenience in a contemporary setting,” Pickering said. “Basic computer skills are critical to survival — you can’t get Social Security, apply for a job, unemployment benefits, maintain basic communication if you are without computer skills.
“He was selfless and I will miss him as an awesome human being.”
When he was going through his father’s laptop, Ryan found unfinished tutorials, signs for the computer lab, a narrative for a grant.
“A lot of that was just him. All that stuff was kind of self motivated,” he said. “It was more than just showing up and checking in and checking out.”
At the end of life, if you can say three things, you know you’ve succeeded, Laura said.
“If you can say you tried to be a good person, that you loved deeply and said it often, and you knew you were loved cause others said it to you,” she said. “We know he was a man of service, knew he loved us cause he said it often and he knew we loved him. He taught us to give that love freely.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.