Steve Bower was the kind of guy who was always thinking of others, his daughter Kathryn Petty said.
Even when he was in the hospital, the Lake Bluff man made sure Petty got birthday cards so he could send them out. The day before he died, he took the time to ask how his daughter was doing.
Now, a year after Bower’s death at the age of 61, his family is hoping to keep his spirit of giving and compassion alive by organizing a bone marrow drive in his honor on Monday at the College of Lake County in Grayslake. The drive will be held at 19351 W. Washington St. in the atrium from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are other ways people can help as well, if they aren’t able to make it during that time.
A need for more donors
Bower was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in July 2012 after a month of intense pain and inconclusive results. He was lucky enough to be one of the 30 percent of people who has a bone marrow match within their family.
But while being treated at Northwestern Hospital, he became increasingly concerned about a young, African-American woman who had no family match nor a match through the National Bone Marrow Registry, and was too sick to go home. Minorities are particularly underrepresented in the registry, Petty says.
Petty doesn’t know what ended up happening with this young woman.
Bower, on the other hand, responded well to his transplant. However, a complication from an unrelated proved fatal last February.
His family created the Steve Bower Bone Marrow Drive to try to help other patients, like the woman Bower met at the hospital, find the match they need for a transplant.
Many ways to help
Bower’s family chose to hold the drive at the College of Lake County in part because Petty works there. Additionally, more than a third of the student body are minorities and most are between the ages of 18-34. Donors must be between 18-44 and in general good health. At Monday’s drive, interested donors only need to fill out a form and get a cheek swab. No needles, Petty assures.
Those who can’t attend the drive but who would still like to be tested can reach out to Petty through the Caring Bridge website. Additionally, anyone interested can also donate financially through the site. Petty says it costs Be The Match $100 to process each potential donor. The family is hoping to raise at least $1,000.
Remembering a ‘bigger-than-life personality’
Bower, whose full name was Eric Steven Bower, was a doting husband, father and grandfather, Petty says.
Her mom didn’t have to fill up a tank of gas for more than 30 years because Bower always made a point of taking her car to the gas station for her. He had a hot breakfast and lunches packed for his six daughters every morning. He “had a huge soft spot in his heart for anyone who might be lonely,” she said, and would visit nursing homes to talk with residents and make sure Navy recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station had a place to go on holidays. The family lived in Lake Bluff since 1998.
He kept the family focused on “faith, family, education, kindness,” Petty said. Now the family is hoping to continue that legacy for others who need an act of kindness.