EDMOND — Two Oklahoma-born sisters continue their love for doing things together with an acrylic class offered at the Fine Arts Institute.
Gratia Bowen, 91, and Valeta Dome, 86, are studying painting with Bert Seabourn.
“When she was going to UCO a hundred years ago she really wanted to take art, and our mom and dad said, ‘Well you know, artists go starve in the garret somewhere, so you better take something else,'” Dome said of Bowen. “So she took commercial subjects, but she always loved art.”
Bowen began first grade in 1926 at the Old North Tower, which is now on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.
They said their grandfather was in the Land Run of 1889, and their mother, Clemie Dome, started the second kindergarten class in the state before it was offered in public schools.
After the Depression, when members of their extended family moved to Oklahoma City, they stayed in Edmond because their parents wanted them to go to UCO.
Bowen graduated from the university in 1945 to teach kindergarten like their mother. Dome attended UCO for two years before giving in to her desire to travel the world.
“I was going to travel, and I met my husband out in Colorado and got sidetracked, and so I got married and have two sons,” Bowen said.
Dome followed her sister to Colorado but then heard of a job available in Washington.
“I went to Washington, D.C., with the Geological Survey and stayed with them for 10 years,” Dome said. “I wanted to go to Europe, but they said no because I wasn't a geologist and they didn't need me. That's when I joined the State Department.”
With the State Department, she went to Tokyo for a year, which gave her a taste for the Foreign Service.
“So I came back and joined Foreign Service,” she said. “I said, ‘If this is an employment, this is my cup of tea.'”
Seeing the world
Dome was in 63 countries over more than 30 years with the Foreign Service.
“I met her over in London, and we did five countries together,” Bowen said. “I hadn't been overseas at all, and I just really wanted to see what the other half looked like, so it was fun, I enjoyed it.”
Together they visited London, Paris, Geneva, Madrid and Rome and kept an eye out for the art the cities had to offer.
“I really looked around for the art world because that was my interest,” Bowen said. “I went to the Louvre, but didn't get to stay very long, and I didn't get to see very much.”
Bowen and Dome, who lost their youngest sister in an automobile accident when she was 16, have remained close through the years.
As Dome continued with the Foreign Service, Bowen kept track of her over the years.
“My two sons, I got a globe so I could point out where their Aunt Val was, and so they really got the travel bug,” Bowen said.
“I've had some interesting posts,” Dome said. “I had a boss from Oklahoma, and he told me I didn't want to go to Paris, London, etc., because I'd be a little fish in a big pool, but you want to go to the places outside that nobody else wants to go to.”
So she went to Laos, Cambodia, Libya and Somalia and loved the work she did.
‘We just keep going'
Bowen retired from teaching in 1979 and began traveling with her husband, Jack.
“I lost him in '96, so he's been gone for quite a while. We had a good life together.”
Dome retired in 1981 and returned to Edmond to later find out she had a nonmalignant brain tumor, and doctors did not know how long it had been there.
“I had a brain surgery that went through the ear,” Dome said. “I always had earaches all my life.
“They had to cut the facial nerve and that's why my whole face kind of snapped over like a rubber band.”
Bowen said, “You know, we just keep going.”