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Our own Patsy Bowles and Hillary Clinton
Posted On: Oct 23, 2016

In everyone's high school class, there are success stories.

Maybe there's a mayor in your class.

Or a state senator.

Or an ex-class wiseacre who became a stock broker and now makes millions, owns a mansion in the Hamptons and flies his own jet to reunions.

Which brings us to Patsy Henderson.

A longtime Bloomington woman, a success story of her own as a speech and language therapist, the founder of an acclaimed outdoor learning center and a proud mother, too, Patsy also has kept up a close friendship for more than 60 years with an equally successful high school classmate.

In fact, in a couple weeks, she could be president of the United States.

"Hillary was one of those who everyone liked," says Patsy, Park Ridge (Ill.) Maine South High Class of '65, who in marriage became Patsy Bowles while Hillary Diane Rodham became a Clinton. "She was conscientious, smart and tons of fun. She also had a confidence that caused us all to pretty much figure she'd be a successful person. And I guess we were right. Can you imagine having a friend who becomes a first lady, a U.S. senator, secretary of state and then runs for president of United States?"

In a word, no.

And this friendship?

When Patsy's late husband, Jack Bowles, a patriarch of a well-known Twin City insurance agency, began doing final battle with a faltering heart a few years ago, one of the first to console, says Patsy, was her friend.

(Yes, out of the thousands of emails that are the subject of Clinton's private email server and headline news, Patsy is, no doubt, among them.)

Fifty-one years ago, when Patsy was crowned homecoming queen at Maine South, one of the first to congratulate her, she says, was Hillary.

Back in early grade school, when the two first met in Sunday school at First Methodist Church of Park Ridge, Hillary’s mom, Dorothy, was their teacher.

And therein is what makes Patsy’s perspective interesting.

You know how it might offend you when you overhear a someone ripping into a good friend of yours? Consider Patsy. “They’ve piled on so much about Hillary that, as a friend, naturally you get upset," she says. "Toxicity in this campaign has become so normalized and so accepted. It gets good ratings, but I think we’re losing something in the process — like simple kindness for one another.”

It was more than 20 years ago, when Patsy first realized this life friendship of hers had suddenly taken an odd turn.

On a girls-weekend-out-retreat, she awakened in the middle of the night and opened her eyes to look up at the ceiling of the house where they were all sleeping to realize Abe Lincoln might have done that, too.

It was an over-nighter in the private quarters of the White House.

In eight years of the Bill Clinton presidency, there were occasional get-togethers, a dinner here and there, one year a costume party at the White House attended by several Maine South friends. That's when the president's costume was out of the 1950s, with greased-back hair, and Hillary wore a hoop skirt.

When the Clintons left the White House in 2001, Patsy considered the end to all that.

But then Hillary became a U.S. senator, ("I heard less from her ... as she got very busy") and then secretary of state ("I heard even less, as she was always busy") and now possibly president.

One assumes, if elected, this might be one of Clinton's busier gigs.

"Through the years, it has been interesting ... especially since so many in Bloomington-Normal are Republican and so many of my friends are Republican," says Patsy. "Heck, my own husband was a Republican. But good friends remain friends, even if you don't all share political viewpoints ..."

That, in turn, is where a bit of worry enters Patsy's mind.

"It's all gotten so nasty now ..."

In Philadelphia in July, Patsy was a Clinton delegate at the national convention. Eight other classmates from Maine South were there, too. They stay that close, she says. One classmate makes the jewelry that Hillary wears. Another writes books and dedicated one to Clinton. They've all been friends for so long, Patsy remembers going to class reunions in Park Ridge when Bill Clinton still needed to wear a name tag.

"It's a shame the world cannot see the Hillary that we (her high school pals) know," says Patsy. "She's a caring, loyal, devoted person who is constantly aware that part of our role here is to help others. Christianity has always been a center of her identity. That goes back to our days in Sunday school ... and it's so hurtful now to read and hear the nastiness that's out there."  

That, of course, is probably not going to end, especially if Clinton emerges victorious on Nov. 8.

In the world in which Patsy and Hillary grew up, when they heard that old adage, usually spoken among boys  — "Anyone can grow up to be president" — it is all rather surreal now, if not something else.

Like, maybe even true.

by Bill Flick, Pantagraph, October 23, 2016

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