Matt Fowler

Dad, fifteen years later

peacock-90051_640So my Dad has been gone 15 years this morning. He squeezed more than most out of 74, almost 75 years and touched many many people. Many of them have written great stories and posts on the “I Worked at Bill’s London Transit” FaceBook Page, and the Huntsville Revisted FaceBook page.

He taught me so many things: how to be a Dad, how NOT to be a Dad (and a husband) and too many things to list about business. He said that for someone in sales, and most people are in sales, that you want fans, not just customers. People who will come and find you, whatever you happen to be selling at the time. Not because you are the cheapest or the fastest or the closest, but because you have come through for them so many times in the past that they could not see themselves going anywhere else.

So I miss the guy very much even 15 years later. I’d love to show him Old Town Beer Exchange and the latest big website project we have published at Solid Earth. He’d have a lot to tell me, some of which I feel sure I need to know.

I’d love him to see “baby Sarah” going to Medical School, and Hannah getting on so well in her career in the Big City. He’d be so proud; just as I am.

I’d also like to invite him to my upcoming 30th wedding anniversary and talk about how Julie and I were able to pull that off with no periods of separation or drama; well not too much drama. He and Mom made it to 36 years but there were gaps, sort of. I think he’d be proud of that too.

So on the anniversary of his departure into whatever is next, I thought I’d post this article written by my old friend Bill Easterling, who also has left us, and run on the Local page in the Huntsville Times on July 7, 2000. Bill captured it pretty well I think. Here goes…

The other side of a man’s life shines a light on his character

Bill Easterling’ – 07/06/00 – Huntsville Times

The peacocks watched him through a bedroom window Saturday morning. They hadn’t done that before. He died before day was done, making their gesture more remarkable.

But Bill Fowler was an exceptional man, so the uncommon thing the peacocks did didn’t surprise his wife.

”He loved animals,” Janice Fowler said. ”Especially birds. He always said animals were God’s main creation, and people were just a sideline.”

If Bill Fowler wasn’t a legendary figure, he was at least mythical.

In the 1970s, he opened London Transit in Huntsville, a men’s clothing store way ahead of its time.

He built a chain of 14 Bill’s London Transits across the Southeast before financial problems closed all except the Atlanta store, which he kept going until 1986.

But Fowler could always overcome problems. He bounced back, opening K&G Men’s Center in Atlanta with three friends. When that store merged with what’s now Men’s Wearhouse, Fowler ”kind of retired” from the clothing industry.

Clothes were his legacy. His father, William M. Fowler, owned a series of clothing stores here. But the son never went into business with the father, choosing instead to become partners with Hilding Holmberg before opening his own store, Bill’s Men’s Wear.

Gossip spread like wildfire when Fowler, chasing bigger markets, moved to Atlanta in 1980, leaving his wife to raise their three children, Matt, Laura Fowler Cope and Bill II.

The meddlers didn’t know the flamboyant clothier with the black eye patch came home nearly every Friday, returning to Atlanta on Sunday nights. Not only that, said his wife, ”We married in 1963, and not a day ever passed that he didn’t call me on the phone at least once. It didn’t matter if he was in London or Atlanta or wherever.”

They met because of an animal. Bob Ward, then a reporter for The Times, invited her to accompany him to see an ocelot Fowler was said to have at his store. Ward said, ”If it (the ocelot) isn’t there, just act like we’re shopping and then we’ll leave.”

When Fowler was diagnosed with latter-stage cancer last August, he came home to finish living his life with his wife, his children and his grandchildren.

Mrs. Fowler said oncologist Dr. Marshall Schreeder ”is such a wizard, he gave us 11 months we would not have had otherwise.”

They were ”the best 11 months we ever had together.”

Bill Fowler, a man with a warm personality and a cutting sense of humor, was generous to a fault. He loved helping the needy. In fact, one note he left his wife asked her to ”keep an eye on (so-and-so), he might need a little help.”

Janice Fowler said her husband ”lived his life to the fullest. He said he had no regrets for the choices he had made. He also said he’d marry me again today.”

She said he was ”just a wonderful gift the Lord gave us.”

 

Four More Years

imagesSo its February 23, 2015, a milestone for me and my family.  Four years ago this morning I was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma (OM), specifically a 14mm x 16mm x 2.9mm choroidal melanoma tumor inside my right eye. Most people who know me remember that I had an issue with my eye and often ask me how my sight is doing.  I want to take this opportunity to provide an update and some nuggets from my now four year journey with cancer.

First an update: OM is not really about eyesight. An OM tumor is highly likely to spread outside the eye into vital organs and lead to death. I was told that I had a 30% chance of living longer than four years by a genetic counsellor who gave me the prognosis. That kind of message made me much less concerned about eyesight and more concerned about the spread of cancer. The tumor in my eye is still there but after being irradiated, bathed in chemo and lasered repeatedly it is shrinking and should no longer pose a threat. I have had CTs and MRIs often since 2011 and to date no cancer has been found outside of the original site. If there is no cancer found this year, my risk will go down to around 10%.

So, if nothing else happens, I may have survived a very deadly disease.

Now for the take-aways. Like me, Oliver Sacks has Ocular Melanoma too. His recent Op Ed in the New York Times is a great read and describes pretty well how I feel about receiving a terminal diagnosis.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written.

Dr Sacks has an amazing mind and clearly has a deep appreciation of the life he has lived. Still, at 81 he is lamenting his situation. That is understandable since he is human and will miss the only life and family he has ever known. But in a way it is sad; less grateful than one should be for the privilege of living eight decades.

I don’t know Dr Sacks and should not criticize but here’s what makes me say that.

One day I was sitting in the Ophthalmological Oncology Waiting Room at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia feeling sorry for myself. I was about one year into regular treatment and not looking forward to getting another shot in the eyeball.  A little girl wearing an eyepatch came in with her mom and sat down across from me. She was about 10, about the age of my little niece.  In that moment I realized that I had not been thankful. I felt like a petulant kid at Christmas who did not get the requested present. It was not a good feeling.

As Dr Sacks said, he has traveled, written, read, lived, loved and has been loved. Me too. I have two daughters who have grown into healthy, productive adults. They are really pretty cool people too, people I love to spend time with. My wife of almost thirty years is a constant companion and my best friend in the world. I miss her right now and we’ve only been apart for about three hours and that relationship is a gift from above. It’s also something that the little girl at Wills may never know.

So, how long is long enough to live? I don’t know the answer to that but I want to strive to be the person who is thankful for however long it is. It reminds me of this song “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry.

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I’ve had just enough time…

But I am pretty sure no one really feels that way; even if you die in your 80’s like Dr Sacks probably will.  It’s hard not to covet more time but that’s my prayer for my fourth anniversary. That I can listen to that Band Perry song and sing along with those lyrics with an honest voice. A voice that says, yep, I’d like more but I’ve had just enough time. Thanks be to God.

There’s too much going on right now at Solid Earth, Inc.!

Two announcements in one day is heavy for us. But, there’s another one! About 400 brokers in the Birmingham area are getting notices today that the Spring MLS API has been released for GreaterAlabamaMLS.com. For the first time ever, broker members can signup for an API key and interact with the MLS real time. Post here for more information and look for an Early Adopter announcement Monday. Innovation is cool! See more at www.solidearth.com

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Villagemarketplace is closed today.

One of our staff was assaulted while taking her baby into Jackson Way daycare by the child’s father. He’s psycho and not stable. Pray for healing for all involved, especially this lost and misguided little shit who hurt his baby’s momma. Hope he has a looooonnnngg time think about it in the poky. Very soon. Today preferably.

 

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