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Madelyn Bowen, student and softball player, dies at 21

Madelyn Bowen of Massapequa Park died Oct. 6

Madelyn Bowen of Massapequa Park died Oct. 6 after a battle with cancer. She was 21. Credit: Amelia Cariddi

Nothing could stop Madelyn Bowen from doing what she wanted to do -- not even cancer.

Even in her final days, Bowen, 21, of Massapequa Park, was committed to setting an example of a life lived fully, her close friends and family said.

She showed up to every softball team practice at SUNY Old Westbury, completed every class, attended nearly every event for the political campaign she worked on until she couldn’t this fall.

Bowen died Oct. 6 at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola.

“She didn’t want to stop living her life,” said Amelia Cariddi, 20, of Seaford, a close friend. “Everyone is trying so hard to live now because she would have wanted it that way. It’s not easy to wake up and smile, but I’m going to do it for her.”

Bowen was born April 12, 1997, the younger of two children to Charles and Aline Bowen. Each moment with Maddy, as she was known to her close friends and family, was full of spunk and quick-witted joy.

“From the day she was born, everything she had to do for herself,” her mother Aline said. “She always had to be the strong one, the one who took care of everyone else. That was her personality.”

She began playing softball when she was 7 and fell in love with the camaraderie that came with being on a team, Aline Bowen said.

Bowen had other interests, too. She played drums in the marching band at Massapequa High School and dreamed of becoming a lawyer who worked with women in politics and progressive causes. She loved to watch “Law and Order: SVU” and grab a postgame slice of pizza from Umberto’s in Wantagh.

It was softball that originally brought Bowen and Cariddi together. The two friends had been in the same softball orbit since they were children, but ran into each other again at SUNY Old Westbury in fall 2016. They quickly bonded over joining the softball team there.

But one day, Bowen told Cariddi she had a bump on her leg.

“She said, ‘I have a bad feeling,’ ” Cariddi said.

In April 2017, doctors diagnosed Bowen with synovial sarcoma, a rare cancer that affects the arms and legs, her mother said. Bowen’s cancer slowly spread, and her resolve to fight strengthened.

“She tried to smile her way, laugh her way through,” Aline Bowen said. “At first, she said if it was up to her, she’d do nothing. Live her life and travel.”

Her mother convinced her to give treatment a try, if only to prolong the life her daughter wanted to live. 

Bowen threw herself into her studies as a politics, economics and law major and signed up to work on the campaign of Liuba Grechen Shirley, a Democrat running against Rep. Peter King for New York’s 2nd Congressional District.

On the field, Bowen worked hard to keep up with her teammates, said coach Rich Borawski. Bowen wasn’t able to play every game or complete every practice drill, but she still showed up and gave “nothing less than 100 percent,” he said.

At one home game last spring, Borawski leaned over and asked Bowen if she felt up to playing, even though he knew she’d say yes. Bowen proudly walked up to the plate, bat in hand. She hit the ball with a satisfying crack, her coach said. 

It was her first hit in months, and it would be her last.

“Everyone was crying — her teammates, people in the stands,” Borawski said. “For her, it proved, I think, that she could still do it, play the game that she loved so much. It was the one moment she could forget she had cancer.”

Services were held for Bowen on Oct. 11. In lieu of flowers, her family asked that donations be made to the Cancer Center for Kids at NYU Winthrop Hospital.

She is survived by her parents, her brother, C.J. Bowen, her grandparents Mary Helen Oas and Barbara and Thomas McCarthy, uncles, aunts and cousins.

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