Michael Dean Bowling, 64, of Middlesboro, KY, passed into eternal life on February 20, 2021, after an acute illness. Mike was born on February 27, 1956, in Yokohama, Japan, to Major (Ret.) Charles Edward and Sieglinde Freudenstein Bowling. As a military brat, Mike moved often, attending 16 schools in 18 years. It was this childhood experience that shaped his most defining qualities.
Mike had deep empathy and genuine appreciation for all people, as evidenced by his servant’s heart and lifelong call to public service. He was overwhelmingly generous and kind, treating all as equals and holding a particular fondness for underdogs. Mike passionately served on the Kentucky Public Advocacy Commission, championing access to legal defense for the underprivileged. He tirelessly supported Kadasha Foundation, a Christian ministry funding heart surgeries and orphanages in Haiti, through his many trips, donations, and pro bono legal work. Mike won the Arthur Von Briesen Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. Additionally, Mike continued to support Southeast Community and Technical School and Appalachian Wildlife Foundation through the end of his life.
Growing up, one of Mike's greatest desires was to "plant roots" — and plant roots he did. He met his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Jamie Shoffner Bowling, in Middlesboro at the age of 15 and theirs was an enduring love story. To know Mike was to know how much he adored Jamie, who was his everything. He truly believed she hung the moon and was often heard telling anyone and everyone who would listen. Jamie returned that love with unconditional devotion and care that transcended all life stages across their many decades of commitment. Together, they created a beautiful life and built a steadfast community. Graduating from the University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky Chase School of Law, and serving four years as a Captain in the US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps) in Ft. Hood, TX, Mike and Jamie returned to Middlesboro, established a thriving law practice, raised a family, and honored the call of civic duty. Mike served as Middlesboro City Attorney, Attorney for the Bell County Board of Education, Member of the Kentucky Board of Education, and Chairman of the Pine Mountain Regional Industrial Authority. Most notably, Mike served eight years as Kentucky State Representative for the 87th District representing Bell, Harlan, Whitley, and Leslie Counties, a seat now occupied by his son, Adam Bowling. One of his highest honors was serving as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Mike cared passionately for Kentucky, and specifically, the people of Southeastern Kentucky, to whom he relentlessly gave of himself. Until the end, he continued to stay involved in projects benefiting his beloved state.
Mike’s civic service came second only to his zest for life. Mike loved meeting and talking with people, traveling, food, and fun. "Variety is the spice of life," was an oft-quoted Mike-ism by his family. Every meal was the best meal he ever ate. Each trip was the best trip he'd ever taken. He was the first on the roller coaster and the fastest down the ski slope with his kids. Mike was, quite simply, hilarious. He kept family, friends, and colleagues endlessly entertained with his storytelling and quick wit. With Mike, the truth never got in the way of a good story. He was affectionately known as "220" by close friends for his suspicious yet entertaining claim that each golf swing was "220 right down the middle.” Mike was famous for his spontaneity on the dance floor, including his signature move “The Triple Beat.” He loved to shuffle and spin around insisting that “on the 3rd beat you can do anything you want!" to which his kids, nieces, and nephews feigned embarrassment while actually instigating it. Mike was lovingly called "Big Dog'' because he was, quite simply, the biggest, most fun ringleader to the family and friends who adored him. Mike truly lived in the moment bringing warmth, kindness, laughter, and entertainment to those fortunate enough to know him.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his devoted wife of 42 years, Jamie Shoffner Bowling; his loving children, Ashley (Richard) Kraska of Boston, MA, Adam (Becky) Bowling of Middlesboro, KY, and Blake (Taylor) Bowling of Middlesboro, KY; his grandchildren, Everly Kraska, Elizabeth (Ellie) Kraska, Emerson (Emma) Kraska, Harrison Bowling and William Bowling; brothers, Bryan Bowling of Harrogate, TN and Robert (Karla) Bowling of Lexington, KY; beloved in-laws, John (Janine) Shoffner of Louisville, TN, Jay (Kelly) Shoffner of Middlesboro, KY, and Jerry (Farra) Shoffner of Middlesboro, KY; a cherished circle of nephews and nieces; and a tight-knit community of lifelong friends.
The Bowling family would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to those who cared for Mike both physically and spiritually in his final days: Hospice of the Bluegrass, Dr. Clint Diorian, Dr. Neil Barry IV and dear, lifelong friends Dr. Neil Barry III and his wife, Jane. In lieu of flowers, a Mike Bowling Scholarship to Southeast Community College has been established to benefit deserving students in the community. Donations can be made to Home Federal Bank (c/o Jamie McCune), 6792 Cumberland Gap Parkway, Harrogate, TN 37752 or to his lifelong place of worship at Covenant United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 399, Middlesboro, KY 40965.
Due to Covid, a private family funeral has been planned. The family regrets that a community-wide service cannot be held to celebrate Mike’s life but wants to acknowledge and give thanks for the outpouring of love, prayers and support during this time.
Although Mike will be terribly missed, he was a man of God who believed deeply and served faithfully. For that, his family rejoices in his Homecoming.
Green Hills Funeral Home, Middlesboro, is honored to serve the Bowling Family.
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