Marvin Bowers was expecting a box of Raisinets on Father’s Day. “Normally that’s what they get me,” the IT analyst told TODAY Parents, with a laugh. Little did Marvin know, that his stepdaughters Jia and Jazel Dennison were planning a surprise that would leave him — and more than 10 million others — in tears.
In a video that was filmed in the family's Renton, Washington, kitchen, Jia, 22, and her sister, Jazel, break the news to Marvin that they are taking his last name. When Jia, a nursing student at Seattle University, notes she wants her diploma to read "Bowers," Marvin 43, is overcome with emotion. "I was in a state of shock. I had no clue that was gonna happen,” he told TODAY Parents. “It was definitely the best gift I’ve ever received.”
Jia explained the backstory on Twitter, revealing that her biological dad was “a drug addict and physically abusive” to her mother, Sae. When Marvin came into the family’s life, he “brought the light into our world again,” Jia wrote. “He’s always loved me and my sister as his own. And so we decided to change our last name this Father’s Day. I love you, Dad.”
As little girls, Jia and Jazel lived in a constant state of anxiety. “I grew up in a house with domestic violence,” Jia told TODAY Parents. “My biological dad was out of control a lot of the time, and I remember crying and not feeing safe.”
When Jia was 8, her parents separated. “I was relieved,” she told TODAY Parents. Sae had no intentions of remarrying. But then, in March 2007, Marvin came into the picture.
“I was a protective, single mom,” Sae told TODAY Parents. “If I was dating someone, I didn’t let it get serious. I didn’t allow that person to come into the house or meet girls." But Sae made an exception for Marvin. “I just knew he was a good one,” she said. “I felt safe.”
Sae and Marvin were married after three months of dating. The couple went on to have a daughter, Maya, 11. (Marvin is also dad of Angelique, 19, from a previous relationship.) According to Jia, Marvin is known to wake the entire family in the middle of the night and take them on special adventures. “My favorite was when we all went to look at Christmas lights,” Jia said. “That was something I will never forget."
Jia and Jazel will tell you they went from having an absent dad to an involved one. “When we were in high school, if he got wind of a dance, he’d volunteer to chaperone,” Jia told TODAY Parents. “He was at every soccer game. Every ballet recital.”
For that reason, Jia never rarely feels sad about her biological father, with whom she is estranged.
“Marvin is my dad,” Jia declared to TODAY Parents. “He makes me feel loved every day. He has always seen Jazel and I as his own."