In Memoriam: Thomas Vernon Bowyer

Thomas Bowyer
Thomas Bowyer

January 9, 1948 – October 1, 2019

The owner and renown cake decorator of the former Bowyer’s Bakery, which was once a Lakewood institution, is gone.

Thomas Vernon Bowyer, 71, a San Marco-area resident and former co-owner of the Bowyer’s Lakewood Bakery & Catering service, passed away unexpectedly October 1, 2019. Bowyer was a man of many experiences, interests and talents, according to those who knew him best.

Bowyer, a Jacksonville native, was born Jan. 9, 1948 to Marlboro Thomas Jr. and Pam Fleming Bowyer. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1978 with the rank of Staff Sergeant with an Outstanding Marksman (rifle expert) distinction, having served 12 years. Family members said he was a proud Marine for the rest of his life, but he was perhaps best known as one of the owners of the bake shop, which his parents had operated for more than 35 years before its sale in 1984. He excelled in cake decorating.

“Bowyer’s Bakery was the best in Lakewood,” Minnie Acosta recalled in his online guestbook. “I remember going there all the time. Mr. Bowyer made my wedding cake, and it was so beautiful. My husband Mark worked there and loved it. My deepest sympathy to all of Tom’s family.”

His sister, Debra Higgins, said that her brother left the Marine Corps in order to help their father and mother run the bakery and, later, its catering service, after the grandfather who created the business passed away.

“It was a family-owned business, a bakery and catering service and they also had a restaurant in the later years in Lakewood,” Higgins recalled. “It started out with my grandfather and then my father, and the bakery was on Main Street downtown and they moved it to Lakewood – I don’t know what year. Tom took the part of decorating the birthday cakes and wedding cakes. He was very artistic. Then, it was several years later that they expanded the business and moved across the street on the Winn Dixie side and that’s when they opened the restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch. Tom continued with the cake decorating and my Dad was the baker. My father and mother coordinated the catering. He was a very generous, giving person, a very good listener.”

Baking and cake decorating were only two of Bowyer’s great many talents, his wife Carolyn Bowyer said. He was also widely known for his kindness, generosity, friendliness and the meticulous attention to detail he brought to the trim carpentry that brought the family its living.

“He did all kinds of things – trim, crown molding, doors, he worked on windows,” Bowyer explained. “He and his very dear friend, they did some remodeling together, bathrooms as well. He’d been doing that for a number of years. He was very meticulous and very patient. He worked by himself unless his friend Tony Dye was involved. Tony is a custom builder, and they would feed off each other on ideas and things like that.”

Bowyer was also a Master Mason and a Shriner and had a love of hunting, especially quail and dove, although in his earlier years he also pursued deer and wild turkeys. He was also a member of Jacksonville Skeet & Trap Club, Gateway Pistol and Rifle Club and the NRA as well as a member of San Jose Episcopal Church.

“He was a family man,” she said. “There are so many words I could use.”

Carolyn and her husband met on a blind date set up by their friends.  “Back in ’74 that was unheard of,” Carolyn said with a laugh. The rest is family history. The two were married for 44 years and among the first words his widow used to describe him was “family man.”

Bowyer is survived by his wife, daughter, Sarah Leigh Lake, granddaughter, Georgia Caitlyn Lake, mother-in-Law, Naomi Duke, sisters Debra Higgins and Cathy Bowyer, and sister-in-law LeAnne Duke. Visitation was held in October and a graveside service with military honors was conducted Oct.11, 2019, at Oaklawn Cemetery with reception following in the chapel.

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