Iree Bowling, a Perry County matriarch who appeared in American Hollow, a 1999 HBO movie about her family's strong ties and way of life, has died.
She was 81.
Mrs. Bowling died Friday at her home on Mudlick Road near the community of Saul in Perry County, where she lived almost her entire life. Her husband, Bascum Bowling, died some years ago. They had 13 children.
As Mrs. Bowling told it, she was taking the wash off the clothesline one day in 1997 when New York filmmaker Rory Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, showed up at her home.
"She came right up, and she went to helping me take clothes off and fold them up," Mrs. Bowling recalled in a 1999 interview. "That's how we met."
Rory Kennedy had gone to Eastern Kentucky planning to do a documentary film about welfare reform in rural America. But after meeting Mrs. Bowling, she decided to do a different, more human story about the Bowling family.
The result was a 90-minute film that drew praise at the Sundance Film Festival. One reviewer said it struck a "chord of soulfulness that nothing else came close to."
American Hollow pulled no punches. It included an Easter egg hunt but also showed one Bowling son spending 17 days in jail because the family lacked bail money.
Services for Mrs. Bowling will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Mount Paran Baptist Church at Saul.