The last word

Linda Bowles’ suicide ran counter to her public diatribes

Conservative columnist Linda Bowles made a career of trashing the shallow convictions of liberals, those unprincipled and undisciplined hedonists who were ruining her beloved country.

Her opinions were fortified by the conviction that she would see Bill Clinton rot in hell.

Fans called her “the female Rush Limbaugh,” which flattered her, even though she noted that he couldn’t fit into her size-4 dress. She admitted openly that she loved to taunt gays, referring to homosexuality as “homosexual disorientation.”

She was a Catholic who became a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, although she didn’t belong to an organized church, and in the later years she traveled the United States, speaking to pro-life groups on the sanctity of human life.

Her indignation about the taking of human life didn’t end with the abortion debate. In columns that her critics called “hate-filled ranting,” she preached that suicide and euthanasia were contrary to God’s given plan for us.

Her hard-line, take-no-prisoners approach helped breath new life into the Christian Right. From reading her column, every social problem could be fixed by a return to old-fashioned, Christian, family values.

But on April 30, Bowles took an overdose of prescription medication, leaving behind a suicide note.

Her death shocked her friends, who still can’t believe that she betrayed her convictions.

“I’m sure she didn’t intentionally kill herself,” said Rick Newcomb, her boss at Creators Syndicate. “She just wanted to kill the pain.”

Bowles had been despondent since her husband and constant companion of 25 years, Warren Bowles, died of a brain tumor last year in May. But, just before her death, most of her acquaintances thought she was getting better.

She had just bought a new bicycle, had her hair restyled and redecorated her kitchen. Financially well off, she lived in a stylish home on a six-acre lot in Cathey’s Valley, nestled at the foot of Yosemite. At 51, she was still beautiful and in good health, which she credited to her genes and leading, in her words, “a good, clean Christian life.”

But she hadn’t resumed writing her column, which she had discontinued in February 2002, when she asked for time off to care for her husband.

At that time, her career was in high gear. More than 100 newspapers across the country, including the Chico Enterprise-Record, published her column. She had appeared on national television numerous times, including guests spots on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. She was also in demand across the nation as a public speaker.

But, in her last column in February of last year, she wrote prophetically, “This may well be the last column I will ever write.” Her husband had inoperable brain cancer; three doctors had confirmed this. “It is not [my husband’s and my] purpose to separate at this time or any time in the near future,” she wrote.

After the funeral, she told friends, “I can’t live without him.”

No one knew how much she meant it.

Linda Bowles referred to Warren Bowles as her “hero-husband,” her mentor, teacher, editor, spiritual guide, role model and trusted friend.

“He taught me how to write, how to think and reason, and he taught me to deal as an equal with his peers, business executives, lawyers, doctors, brokers and politicians. He taught me everything from changing a flat tire on my car to speaking to a crowd of several thousand people,” she wrote in her final column.

Bowles, who had never attended college, trusted her husband’s judgment implicitly, friends say.

When she first began writing, he corrected her spelling and grammar. She passed every column by him before its publication. She never accepted a speaking engagement without conferring with him. He had veto power over her columns, although he seldom exercised it.

Chico talk show host and good friend Bruce Sessions said that, in almost every discussion he had with her, she said, “I’ll have to ask Warren.”

Bowles said they agreed on “just about everything,” and friends say it was pretty much true. The pair discussed politics nonstop, but there was seldom a debate.

They spoke so often in one voice that some people believed that Warren wrote her columns, which close friends were quick to deny, but it would be hard to overstate his influence on her work.

“On the quiet side,” Bowles wrote of her husband, “he taught me, from his heart to mine, a love of God and country. His chivalrous ways renewed my love of men. … All this is to say that, if you know me, you know Warren.”

Close friend Renata Sprague said she knew why Bowles had quit writing her column in February, three months before Warren’s death. As his illness progressed, the couple focused more on his illness. Bowles refused to accept the doctors’ judgments that his condition was incurable, and she fought “like a wildcat,” Sprague said.

“They stopped talking about politics. I know she got her ideas from their conversations. [After his death] the interest in politics just didn’t come back.”

It was harder, too, to come back to face the contentious and heated debates and caustic criticism that her column generated, although she appeared to thrive on it before her husband died.

Sessions said that she seemed pretty invincible most of the time.

“The more she took, the better she liked it,” he said. “She knew when she struck a nerve. She loved to write negative things about homosexuals. She would just be thrilled. She had a fun giggle when she knew she had set somebody off.”

But Warren’s quiet support kept her on balance.

Sprague says his unconditional love gave Bowles her confidence and her courage, especially when she was under attack from dissenters.

“She could not have done this without Warren,” Sprague said. “He didn’t write for her, but [handling the criticism] was one thing they did together.”

But Sprague insists Bowles wasn’t a wimp.

“She was more liberated than most feminists,” she said. “In a Christian marriage, when a husband supports his wife, that’s the way it is. She could do whatever she wanted.”

The problem was that, after Warren died, there wasn’t much Bowles wanted to do. She no longer had any interest in reforming the sin-laden Left.

“He taught me everything I know, except how to live without him,” Bowles wrote in her final column.

Bowles still remains something of an enigma.

Her only child, Michelle, did not return phone calls requesting an interview. There were no services or obituaries for Linda Bowles. In fact, for the first two weeks after she died, her friends and family kept silent out of respect for Bowles and her daughter, who didn’t want Bowles’ critics to know about the suicide.

The Paradise Post broke the story on May 15 after hearing from an unnamed source. Reluctantly Bowles’ daughter issued a press release stating that, “The coroner’s report will tell you she purposely overdosed on anti-depressants.”

Linda and Warren Bowles led a very secluded life. She described her home as “the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.” Not many fans knew she lived in Cathey’s Valley, and there are conservative patriots living in Cathey’s Valley who still don’t know who she was.

She didn’t belong to a church. Instead she and Warren had their own worship services on Sundays. Although they moved from the Bay Area, they didn’t seem to have a lot of friends from there they kept in touch with.

Her mother, a widow, lived in Oregon, and her daughter was living in the Bay Area at the time of her death.

Bowles’ close friends knew very little about her life before she met Warren. Bowles told friends that she had been married to a bullfighter while she was still a teenager. Michelle, now 32, was the daughter of that union.

Friends believe Bowles’ mother was from Canada, but no one knew where Linda Bowles grew up. She often spoke of her relationship with her stepfather, who taught her “everything there was to know about business.”

When her stepfather died, a friend said, she was despondent then too, but she had Warren to lean on.

The righteous anger in her columns led many critics to dub her a “hate-monger,” zinging leftists with unsubstantiated accusations. She made no apologies for the punches she threw.

“The ridiculous deserve ridicule,” she was heard to say, as well as, “There’s no such thing as being too mean to Clinton.”

In an interview with the Enterprise-Record a decade ago, she described with glee how much fun it was to take one of her adversaries apart in print.

“I ripped him to shreds,” she said of an environmental columnist who inspired her to write her first letter to the editor. “He’s probably somewhere huddled, crying, hugging a tree somewhere right now. … It sounds cruel, but it was fun.”

And critics hit back. Former state Assembly candidate Roberts Braden, in a letter to the Enterprise-Record about 18 months ago, dubbed her column “that upchuck of false piety” with which “she attempted to paint the Democrats as the heathen left (her words), responsible for morals and values that do not meet her standards. … My dictionary defines heathen as ‘one who is not a Christian, Jew or Moslem.’ Most Democrats belong to one of those faiths. Bowles should not bear false witness. It’s immoral and offensive to mainstream values.”

But Bowles never claimed to be invincible. In fact, in one essay, she discussed how our values need societal support if they are to prevail:

“The bulwarks we erected to protect us against the dark side of our natures—the church, the family, the school and the law—have been overrun by heathens who consider them unnecessary obstacles to having a good time.”

In the end, it seems, that network of support Bowles had hoped to bolster with her columns was not enough.

After her death, her daughter said that Bowles died “of complications of the heart.”

“To say she had a weak or failed heart would be untrue," she wrote in a press release. "To say she suffered from a broken heart would be an understatement."