All day long, a steady stream of people flocked to Dr. Richard Bowles’s office in the Old Centreville Crossing Shopping Center. But this time, it wasn’t because they were sick; instead, they’d come to say goodbye.
Looking Back on A Satisfying Career
Richard Bowles always knew he’d someday be a doctor. “My dad was a doctor and I used to ride on calls with him,” he said. “I think he had a big influence on me. I was around medicine all my life and I looked up to him, so there was never any question about what I wanted to do.”
A newly retired family practitioner, he’s seen patients in Centreville for almost four decades and was pleased that so many of them came to his office recently to thank him for his services and wish him well in the next chapter of his life.
“It was sweet of everybody,” said Bowles, 68, of Oakton. “I was humbled; it was very gratifying. I had a wonderful relationship with my patients and staff.”
A 1970 graduate of UVA’s medical school, he joined another doctor’s practice in 1975 in the Newgate Shopping Center. That doctor left in 1984 and Dr. Janice Keyes joined Bowles in 1988. A year later, they moved to the practice’s current location in the Old Centreville Crossing Shopping Center.
He chose family practice because “I like the personal contact and getting to know families as a whole. That makes you able to respond and react more appropriately when you look at the whole person.” When asked about any particularly memorable cases, Bowles replied, “When I was with a patient, that person was the most important case. They were all very meaningful to me. They were all special people —extraordinarily nice, kind and understanding. I truly believe we had the best patients of any practice.”
Even if someone called near closing time, he’d try to work that person into his busy schedule. “Sometimes, other patients had to wait because of it,” he said. “But they understood and, sometimes, they were the patients that kept others waiting.”
And, yes, Bowles even made house calls. “Nowadays, you can do procedures in an office that you can’t do at home, so office visits are generally better,” he said. “But I still made house calls, when necessary, right up to the end.”
He and Barby, his wife of 43 years, have three grown daughters and five grandchildren — four girls and a boy. And now that Bowles has retired, they’re looking forward to being able to spend more time with them. “I was blessed to have a family who would support my hours,” he said. “There was no medical talk at home; so when I was there, I could concentrate on my family.”
Bowles said getting to know his patients as people was the most rewarding part of his career. “When someone was ill, I wanted to help them,” he said. “My staff and I were a family and cared for each other, too, and we all cared about our patients.” He said his interaction with the staff and patients is what he’ll miss the most. But, he added, “I’m 68, and it just seemed like it was a good time to retire.”
Looking back at his many years as a family practitioner, Bowles said, “It’s a wonderful occupation. And I was very blessed to be in Centreville and have the staff and patients that I did. But I also enjoy being home with the family.” During the recent holidays, he said, “I think it was the first time in 40 years I had both Christmas and New Year’s off.”
Bowles, a family-practice doctor, retired shortly before Christmas after 42 years as a physician — 38 of them in Centreville. And though his patients understood and wished him well, they were genuinely sad to see him go.
“He’s Centreville’s family doctor and he will be sorely missed,” said Clifton’s Phyllis Jacoby. “My children, who are in their 30s now, went to him. He saw my husband through cancer and even gave me his home number in case we needed anything. He made us feel like we’re all special and the only patients he had.”
She said Bowles “ministered to the heart and soul. He asked about your family and gave you a hug on the way out. When people came from his office, it was like they just left their best friend.”
Sanford and Helen Hughes of Centreville’s Manorgate community were patients for some 25 years. “He’s been our family doctor, and as much of a friend as he was a doctor,” said Helen. “You didn’t feel like a number. He didn’t rush you out, but spent time talking with you and discussing any concerns you had. He was a thorough and caring doctor, and we were so comfortable with him that we kept coming all these years. It’ll be hard for someone else to fill his shoes.”
Greenbriar’s Christine Elder saw him for more than 32 years. “He has a daughter three weeks younger than my grandson, so we compared notes through the years,” she said. “I’m sad to lose him as a doctor, but I’m happy for him and I hope he has a long retirement — he deserves it.”
“We feel like he’s a part of us.”
— Kathleen Davis, longtime patient
Former Clifton resident William Smith called Bowles “the greatest doctor. It breaks my heart to see him leave. I had spinal meningitis in 1997 and no one knew what it was. But he told the hospital, ‘This man needs to be admitted right now — he’s dying.’ He saved my life and came to see me every day in the hospital.”
Marvin Roberson was disappointed that Bowles was retiring, but said his replacement, Dr. Kim, “seems very nice.” And, added Roberson’s wife Karen, “We’re glad he’ll get to spend more time with his grandchildren. We’ve been going to him more than 40 years;
we brought our kids and [other relatives]. He’s a fantastic doctor; he treats you as a person and really gets to know you.”
Similarly, Brenda Vieregg of Fair Oaks has been a patient for decades. Recalling how he once brought medicine to her home on a Saturday night for her daughter’s earache, she said, “He’s a wonderful, old-fashioned doctor. And when I told a friend about him, she said, ‘He sounds just like the doctor I grew up with in Matthews, N.C. — Dr. Richard Bowles Sr.’ It was his father, so he’s the second generation of this sort of doctor.”
“It’s remarkable the way he took care of his patients,” said her husband, retired Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Arthur Vieregg Jr. “We love this guy so much. He was the doctor for a number of judges on the court. He also saved Brenda’s brother’s life. Her brother said he had a ‘little discomfort,’ so Richard gave him an EKG and told him to take another test immediately. He was then sent to the hospital and had a quadruple bypass.”
“Everyone raves about him to someone else,” said Brenda. “He just made you feel safe. And even when he was young, he liked taking care of older people. My 94-year-old father was one of his patients.” Calling Bowles “terrific, trustworthy and a good listener,” Vienna’s Martha Schworm said he always made himself available. “In 35 years, I’ve only seen his partner once,” she said. “I wish him a great adventure in retirement.”
Also 35-year patients, Kenyon and Kathleen Davis of Centreville’s Rocky Run community came to bid Bowles farewell, too. “We feel like he’s a part of us,” said Kathleen Davis. “We hate to lose him.” Agreeing, Kenyon Davis said, “He’s not only our doctor, he’s a friend. I thank him for a couple lifesaving things; he discovered I had prostate cancer and that my carotid artery was stopped up. I owe him a lot. He’s well-respected in the hospitals, too; he’s going to be missed by a lot of people.”
Bowles’s partner for the past 25 years, Dr. Janice Keyes said, “It’s been fantastic. He’s one of the best physicians I ever met and we’re great friends. He’s a wonderful human being, and it’s been great working with him.”
Jo Ann Kamauff, his office manager for 26 years, said Bowles “cared about every patient as much as the next and instilled that in all of us. He’s amazing; words can’t say what he means to me. Everybody has a story about him, and he can tell you their story from 30 years ago. I’m happy that he’ll now get to spend more time with his family.”
Virginia Run’s Judy Betts praised the great care Bowles gave her parents since 1994, and patient Cathy Riley-Hall of Centreville’s Country Club Manor community presented him with a handmade quilt of medical-themed fabric surrounded by hearts.
Noting his “compassion, sincerity and concern,” she said, “Even if it was 8 o’clock at night, he’d call you with test results and would even see you on weekends in an emergency. His staff’s phenomenal, too; he’s been a good role model for them. I want him to still be here; but if anyone’s earned retirement, it’s him.”