Staying active and still selling at 87
Some people count sheep to fall asleep, Hope Bowker counts condos.
“Last night I fell asleep at 80,” joked the 87-year-old real estate agent. “Of course I’ve sold a lot more than that.”
She’s been on the job for 42 years, and is now semi-retired.
“Being semi-retired means I have time to read the newspaper in the morning,” said the owner of Hope B Bowker Real Estate Ltd. “Sometimes I meet with clients in the afternoon.”
She joined the industry in 1974, working for LP Gutteridge.
“Prior to that I’d worked for years in retail at Calypso and then as manager of Cooper’s Women’s Department,” she said. “This was just adding a few zeros to what I was selling.”
Her secret to success is believing in her product, and getting clients to believe in her.
“I’ve sold everything from a rock off the North Shore to Lantana,” she said. “Some sales are easier than others. Lantana took five years.
“I often drive down the street and say, sold that, sold that ...”
She believes in doing things face to face.
“I don’t want to negotiate a sale over a computer,” she said. “I want to look you in the eye. I find clients want that as well.
“But in today’s age of electronics everything has become so impersonal. That’s very foreign to me.”
She was born in Lenox Hill, New York. Her parents, Catherine and Harold Bonwit, owned the Bonwit Teller luxury department store on Fifth Avenue. Today, Trump Tower sits on the site.
“Let’s not talk about that,” said Mrs Bowker with a laugh.
She arrived in Bermuda in 1952 aged 22 and got a job as social hostess at the Hamilton Princess.
“My parents had an interest in the hotel,” she said. “In those days, guests would come and stay for months. And there were no suitcases, people brought trunks.”
She married and had two sons before divorcing.
She met her second husband, Captain John Robert “Bob” Bowker, at a cocktail party at the Mid Ocean Club in 1970. He was 21 years older than she was.
“He was an aviation pioneer,” she said. “He basically started flying when I was born.
“He flew the first flight into Gatwick Airport and he was responsible for bringing Air Canada to Bermuda. When I met him he was retired.”
She said her husband later joked that she “picked him up”.
“When I saw this distinguished looking man standing over there, I went over and introduced myself,” she said. “I knew his former mother-in-law.”
A couple of days later, Captain Bowker invited her to the movies.
“It just so happened to be Gone With The Wind,” she said. “I had only seen it about 18 times by that point. Today I am up to about 32.”
It turned out they shared a passion for travel and skiing. They married on January 12, 1973.
In 2000, Mrs Bowker noticed a change in her husband.
“He’d always been a voracious reader,” she said. “He bought at least ten newspapers and magazines a day. Then suddenly he stopped reading.”
It was a long time before she understood that he had Alzheimer’s disease.
“Nobody talked about it at that time,” she said. “I didn’t know what that was.
“But I didn’t handle it very well. I got very frustrated with him, and sometimes I was rude.”
She said the penny didn’t really drop until a friend said to her gently, “You know he’s not going to get any better.”
Captain Bowker died in 2005. Mrs Bowker is now a supporter of the charity Action on Alzheimer’s & Dementia Bermuda.
She sometimes transports Alzheimer’s patients to support meetings and lends an ear to caregivers.
She also loves spending time with her poodles, Mimi and Lily.
“I am a dog person,” she said. “You know, poodles are very intelligent. And I don’t see them as my pets, I see them as my grandchildren.”
She said people are often surprised by how spry she is at 87.
“I think it’s important to stay active,” she said.
She has two sons, Ian and Curtis Linnell, and two stepchildren.
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