BIG RUN â€” The Big Run Citizen of the Year Award is much like the Man and Woman of the year in Punxsy â€” a closely guarded secret â€” but every once in a while the word gets out ahead of time.
That was the case this year when the Peepers Banquet committee honored Big Run's oldest citizen, Velma Schierer Bowser, at the grand old age of 93.
Bowser said she found out she was going to win because she received a card in the mail congratulating her before the banquet was scheduled to take place.
Bowser said she was shocked when she read it.
"I was surprised, and I thought, what am I going to do since I'm not able to get up front of the audience to speak," Bowser said, adding that she prepared a few notes that she placed in her pocket for her grandson Thomas Bowser of Northern Cambria to read on her behalf.
Mrs. Bowser was not born in Big Run, but her family family moved there when she was two years old.
She worked as a spot welder during World War II in Ohio and later worked at Standard Pennant Company in Big Run. She worked from 1945 to 1985 with her husband, Glenn Bowser, as they operated their own service station and grocery store.
The couple established the store, which offered groceries and gasoline, so Bowser would have her own job.
Bowser nearly lost her life in 1978 during the tornado that struck Big Run and traveled through a nearby trailer court, killing a woman who lived there.
"When a neighbor boy and I were going to the basement, I saw a trailer that was smashed into the ground," Bowser said. "It was supposed to be that way because God wasn't ready to take me yet."
Bowser said she was only married for ten years when her husband became ill and wasn't able to work again. He passed away, and she was left with three boys to raise, Larry, Fred, and Dan.
She has seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Bowser said she continues to stay busy every day by playing Christian music on the keyboard, piano, tenor banjo, Hawaiian guitar and the mouth organ.
"When I can't sleep and I wake up during the middle of the night, I get up and play music on my keyboard," Bowser said. "I can't read music anymore since my eyesight isn't as good as it used to be."
She has lived in the same house since she was two years old, except when she lived in Ohio for several years.
"It must be over 100 years old by now," Bowser said, adding that she moved to Ohio for a few years when World War II began.
While in Ohio she went to school and worked at the Goodyear Aircraft plant as a spot welder.
When she returned to Big Run, she worked at Standard Pennant nine hours per day at $.15 per hour.
Before thanking the committee for choosing her as Citizen of the Year, Bowser said she hopes to make tapes of her music for the church to play and for others to enjoy, too.