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.”