PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Thirty years after graduating from North Hills High School, twin sisters Dawn (Bowser) and Debbie (Wittig) Jones were inducted into the North Hills High School Hall of Fame.
View the entire 2021 inductees here.
The sisters were teammates at North Hills both in volleyball and in swimming and graduated in 1991. It was swimming that the duo excelled at most as they each accepted an opportunity to swim collegiately at Clarion University.
The sisters were no strangers to Clarion County growing up, as they were regular attendees at the Clarion University summer swimming camps and frequently visited Wolf’s Campground in Knox during the summer months. The connection they built to the Clarion County community was a strong one as the sisters felt at home being a Golden Eagle and ultimately decided to join the program after their days at North Hills High concluded.
“Clarion just had that homey feel,” Debbie said. “It has been a second home to us since we were about 10 years old. I have always loved Clarion and enjoyed camping there.”
In their days as members of the Lady Indians swimming team, they were a part of a WPIAL and PIAA state championship relay team in the 200 medley relay. Debbie was also an individual WPIAL champion in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle races. Dawn was a WPIAL champion in the 200-meter freestyle and was able to become a 20 plus time All-American, an NCAA National Qualifier, and a multiple-time PSAC champion.
Dawn led Clarion to four PSAC titles during her time with the Golden Eagles from 1991-1996, with Debbie also being on one of those PSAC title teams. Each of them later spent time as a swimming coach, and they enjoyed giving back to the sport that them so much. Dawn even spent some of her working life as an Aquatics Director for Trumbull and Warren County YMCA when she lived in Ohio. It was there that Dawn was able to coach for the Trumbull County Tidal Waves and even got to coach her children and some of her children’s friends.
“Dawn loved that job so much and enjoyed helping kids get better,” Dawn’s husband Tom Bowser said. “She was an amazing competitor and could help any athlete with her mental toughness and preparation skills. She helped me coach softball, and she was just amazing at connecting with the girls and helping them stay locked into the game and remaining positive.”
The couple met at Clarion University, and Tom was easily Dawn’s biggest fan in all that she did. He made trips to Canton, Ohio, and North Dakota to watch her compete in the NCAA Championships when they were dating in their college years.
Although there is a lot that can be said about the Jones girls, being tough is certainly one that would come to people’s minds.
After two separate battles with cancer, Dawn Jones Bowser lost her life to the disease on Wednesday, August 1, 2018.
Her infectious smile remained on her face until the very end and so did her devotion to Jesus Christ.
“I know if Dawn were here today, she would unquestionably thank her coaches, family, teammates, and God for all that she accomplished,” Tom explained. “She loved her teammates, coaches, and family so much. She was an incredible wife and mother. She was kind, caring, smart, beautiful, and she was her kids’ biggest fan. She never missed any concerts, games, or celebrations, and during her first battle, she hardly even missed work. We miss her so much every day.”
Dawn’s sister Debbie spoke about the bond the sisters and forever best friends shared both in athletics and in their lives.
“She was my best friend and my sister all in one. Going to states with her is by far my favorite memory from sports, and I think back on it all the time. Sharing that stage with her and to be able to share this induction with her truly means a lot,” Debbie added.
While Dawn and her family spent time living in Ohio, they came back to Pennsylvania a few years later and called Knox home. She was employed by AmeriCorps during her working days, a job perfectly built for her as she was always quick to serve and help others. She also taught swimming lessons at Clarion University and at Wolf’s Campground, something that also brought her great joy.
However, there may have been nothing more joyful to her than seeing her children’s success.
“Even at the end, we would pull the car as close to the softball diamond as we could get it so she could watch Natalie play. She was so dedicated to her children and anything they were involved with. She was insistent to go even after a long day of treatment. She lives on through them,” Tom said.
Dawn’s children – Nick, Marina, and Natalie – all have attributes that Tom says they get from their mom. Some of those include their smiles, their kindness to others, their dedication to serve, and how they apply themselves in everything they do. Dawn and Tom always put their children first, and they, in turn, have found their own success.
“I can see her smile in all of my kids, and just the little things they say and the reactions they have remind me so much of her.”
The Jones sisters accomplished a great deal in their days as athletes and have now achieved yet another milestone together. It was an accolade probably long overdue, but regardless, their names will always be remembered as some of the greats to walk the halls at North Hills High.
The Clarion area was blessed to have each of these strong women make an impact at the university and in the community, and while Dawn may no longer be with us, her spirit, bravery, kindness, and fight live on.