2022 Melendy Spirit Award Recipients
July 22, 2022
The Melendy Spirit Award is presented to individuals, families, groups, or organizations, both living and deceased, who have made outstanding contributions to Cedar Falls, positively affecting our overall quality of life through philanthropic or other means. The award is named for Peter Melendy who at age 36 became a Cedar Falls resident in 1859. By living fully and energetically, he contributed to our city’s cultural life and economic development. Recipients of this award have made exemplary impacts to the community through philanthropic or other means.
The Cedar Falls Community Foundation is pleased to announce that two Posthumous Melendy Spirit Award recipients have been named, Eddie Bowles, and Mary Taylor.
Mary Taylor was nominated by the Western Home Communities with letters of support for the nomination from Rosemary Beach and Jan Anderson. Eddie was nominated by the University of Northern Iowa, with the Hearst Center for the Arts, Linda Chapin Fobian, and Rosemary Beach writing letters of support.
Eddie Bowles grew up in New Orleans where playing music was a large part of his life. His contemporaries during this time were Louis Armstrong, and Kid Ory. After meeting his wife, Sarah Blanche, the couple moved to Cedar Falls in 1914. Eddie found solid work paving some of the first roads in Cedar Falls. He also was employed by the local railroads, as a foundryman for John Deere, and as a tree trimmer. However, he eventually returned to his musical roots and played for family, friends, and neighbors. During the Blues Revival of the 1960’s, he was sought after by young guitarists wanting to learn his unique picking style of guitar playing. Eddie continued to play for local audiences well in his 90’s. and was well known for his impromptu concerts in his yard after work. His musical talents were always something to be shared with others and to be used to bring groups of people together.
Eddie Bowles musical talents were not the only thing he shared with others. His home was always a safe place for children to escape to from time to time. He also ensured each child had a new pair of shoes for each school year so they could focus more on their learning. He never wanted recognition for his gifts and was always ready to help in whatever way was needed. Like Peter Melendy, Eddie lived his life fully, energetically, and brought a special warmth to our community.
Mary Taylor was born and raised in Waterloo. Her family valued volunteer work, and this value was something Mary carried with her throughout her entire life. Unlike Eddie living to be over 100 years old, Mary was only able to share a little more than a half of a century with Cedar Falls Community, but the impacts are profound and notable.
Cultivating an award-winning Cedar Falls Main Street, through service on the Design and Economic Development Committee’s, is one of Mary’s most important accomplishments. She focused on maintaining the historical integrity of each business while still making them marketable and successful. Being instrumental to, and providing leadership for, saving the Old Post office, was not only a pet project, and award-winning rehab, it was also a catalyst to other historic preservation projects in Cedar Falls. Mary was also an active volunteer in the Cedar Fall’s Author’s Festival, Cedar Trails Partnership, Friends of Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, and was a co-chair of an overnight RAGBRAI stop in Cedar Falls. Providing leadership in each of these endeavors, events or organizations, Mary’s “touch” and impact, is everywhere in the Cedar Falls community. Though reluctant to be recognized, she was often; most recently Mary was posthumously inducted into The Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame, and she received the Representative Citizen Award given by the City of Cedar Falls and the Cedar Falls Utilities- Mary was always quick to share the praise she received with others.
Mary was a keen developer of new talent, never more evident in the scholarships she helped to raise funds for and award to, deserving healthcare and other staff, during her tenure at the Western Home Communities. This special talent and passion now lives on in the Mary Taylor Health Sciences Scholarship established in her name with the Western Home Foundation.
Cedar Falls would not be the city it is today without the work of Eddie Bowles and Mary Taylor. Eddie’s work building the brick-and-mortar aspects of the town, his special gifts for guitar playing and bringing people together, as well as his generous attitude made an impact on historic Cedar Falls, cultivating the spirit we enjoy today. Mary worked diligently to preserve this spirit and make it marketable for the future all while connecting others in a way to help them do the same. These individuals embody the spirit of Peter Melendy, and the Cedar Falls Community Foundation is honored to present them with the 2022 Melendy Spirit Award for their exemplary impact on the city of Cedar Falls. An Awards ceremony and celebration will be held in early September.