With his one-year term as Anah Shrine Potentate winding down, Anthony “Tony” Bowers of Island Falls has become a familiar face around Bangor.
Despite the cold breeze wafting across Lower Main Street in Bangor on Saturday, Nov. 3, Bowers wore a light jacket and the Shrine’s red fez as he directed traffic pulling into the Anah Shrine Center parking lot. A busy craft fair was drawing hundreds of people to the center that cloudy day; his head occasionally swiveling as he studied the packed parking lot, Bowers constantly steered drivers toward an emptying space.
As the Anah potentate, Bowers has been “overseeing the daily running” of the Shrine Center since last January. Anah Shrine has some 3,500 members living from “ Lincolnville to Greenville to northern Maine,” he said. “That’s our scope of geography.”
Bower also helps schedule Shrine Hospital clinics in Bangor, Belfast, Dover-Foxcroft, Machias, and Presque Isle. Anah Shrine financially supports the Shriners’ Hospitals for Children in Boston and Springfield, Mass., he indicated, and those hospitals send doctors to Maine clinics to “evaluate the children to see if they warrant more exams” before possibly receiving free treatment at the hospitals, he said.
Last year Anah Shrine donated about $100,000 to the two hospitals, Bowers noted.
While performing his duties, Bowers has traveled extensively in Maine and elsewhere; sometimes he travels out of state for Shrine functions. “I’ve put 20,000 miles on my own vehicle [in 2012], more than that on other vehicles and flying,” he said. “Last January, in six days I was down to Bangor five times, twice in one day.”
Bowers often has fun while “potentating.” “I’ve been to the [Anah Shrine] circuses” in Bangor and Presque Isle, he said, noting that he likes to watch Anah Shrine clowns interacting with adults and children.
Then there is the moment at a circus “when a woman will come up to me, and she’s holding a child with braces on its legs,” he said. “She will thank me for what the Shrine hospitals have done for her child. Or she will thank other Shriners.
“It means a lot to us,” he said, stepping away for a moment to point a driver toward a vacated parking space.
Bowers has represented Anah Shrine at various functions, including the Northeast Shrine Field Days held in Bangor last September. An estimated 5,000 Shriners and their spouses attended the weekend field days, which included a 2½-hour parade through downtown Bangor.
“The city did just a phenomenal job, closing Main Street for us,” Bowers said. “There were a lot of people watching.”
A funeral director with funeral homes in Houlton and Island Falls, Bowers has been a well-known fixture in Aroostook County for many years. He became a Mason at Molunkus Lodge No. 165 in Sherman in 1984 and joined the Shrine in Presque Isle in 1986. His Masonic connection runs deep in history.
“My father and my grandfather were both Shriners,” Bowers explained. “My oldest brother out on the West Coast is. My son is a Shriner.
“I have Masonic regalia from my great-grandfather [who lived] in Natick, Mass. in the 1890s,” he said.
After he steps down from being potentate, Bowers envisions playing a continued public-relations role for Anah Shrine. “Being 53 years old and being a past potentate, I’m not going to hang up my hat,” he said. “There’s a lot to do in the Shrine.”