Riddick first met Judy in Brownsville in the summer of 1982 while he was walking down Christopher Avenue with one of her cousins. Riddick saw her sitting on the stoop of the two-family brownstone where she lived. He asked her cousin to introduce them. "So we walked across the street, and I met my wife," says Bowe.
Riddick used to catch a bus to the New Bed-Stuy Boxing club on the corner where Judy lived, and he would often stop by her house just to talk. "He was so different from the other guys," says Judy. "He cared about me, not what he could get from me. He said in the beginning how he felt about me, but he realized that I wasn't into relationships. He was a true friend. If I needed him, he was there. If I didn't need him, he was still there."
Three years passed before Judy and Riddick began to date. They would sneak nights together at Bowe's house while his mother worked. When Judy couldn't get out, they would do the same thing at her house. "He was never at my house past 12 o'clock," says Mildred Gordon, Judy's mother. "At midnight he was right out the front door."
"I was out the front door and right back in through the back," says Bowe, winking. "That's how Junior came about."
Riddick and Judy were married in April 1986, and Riddick graduated from Thomas Jefferson High that June. Judy gave birth to Riddick Jr. a month later. Teenagers becoming parents is not unusual in Brownsville. What is unusual, Judy offers, is that Bowe did not leave for some other girl. He stayed put through a difficult pregnancy for Judy, during which she suffered fainting spells. Once while she was slipping in and out of consciousness, Judy heard Riddick ask her mother, "What's wrong with her?" and start crying.
"After that, I knew he was in for the long haul," she says.
Riddicia was born in '88, and Brenda Joyce arrived in '90. "I laid down and made these babies, and I figured it was my responsibility to take care of them," said Bowe, still on the massage table. "Having these kids gave me a reason to live. In my neighborhood people are always telling you that you are no good, that you can't do this, that you can't do that. But having these kids and knowing they need me, well, that helped me. They are the reason I get up and run in the morning."
With his eyes closed Bowe winced as the masseur went to work on his sore right knuckles. "I know there is a God and he loves me, believe it or not," Bowe said. "Because there were certainly a number of times I could have gone the other way."
Bowe remembers the time a friend named Bugsy stuck a loaded .38 in Bowe's hand and told him it was the best way to take care of a neighborhood enemy headed their way. "I realized then that whatever revenge I might get on this guy wasn't worth 25 years in prison," said Bowe. "So I handed the gun back to Bugsy and decided he wasn't my friend after all."
Today Bugsy is in jail, and Bowe is in the comfortable suburb of Fort Washington, in a modest two-story house he bought after his manager, Rock Newman, a Washington, D.C., native, insisted that Bowe move to the capital area in 1989. The first item a visitor to the house sees is a framed evaluation from Riddick Jr.'s school that reads: "J.R. had a very good day at school today. When he gets home from school give him a big hug."