BAR HARBOR — Jean C. Fowler (“Jeanie”), of Bar Harbor, beloved wife of Maj. William E. Fowler, USAF (deceased), passed away peacefully May 27, 2015, at the age of 90.
Jean was born in 1924 in Bangor to John Carl and Catherine R. (Murphy) O’Connor. She was the eldest of five sisters and was always the outdoors, independent, adventurous one — ice skating on the Penobscot River, sliding on nearby hillsides, or just hiking to the other side of town.
After high school, her teaching education at Farmington Normal School was soon interrupted by WWII. At that time, most teachers were men and most of them were off to war. So Jean was thrust into a teaching position at a one-room schoolhouse, grades 1 through 8, in a very small village north of Bangor. She boarded with a local family and had to venture past the cows in order to reach the outhouse. The cows, the outhouse and operating the woodstove at the schoolhouse were a bit much for this city girl.
During the summer of 1942, Jean worked at the Dow Air Force Base Exchange selling cigarettes, candy, and magazines to all the young airmen headed overseas. One especially handsome young man in uniform, Bill Fowler, from Youngstown, Ohio, caught her eye. Bill and his crew were stranded in Bangor while their B-24 underwent repairs. Bill made the most of that two-week delay when he met the love of his life, Jeanie O’Connor. Jean and Bill corresponded for two years and then married in 1944 when he returned from England. They first settled in Youngstown, Ohio; after a few years, moved their growing family to Maine; then Bill was reactivated for Korea. Shortly thereafter, Bill decided to make the Air Force his career; and he and Jean travelled extensively with their three children. While stationed in Japan in the early ’50s, Jean studied flower arranging and painting. Painting became a lifetime passion, as did photography. While stationed in Germany in the mid-’60s, they took every opportunity to explore — France, Holland, Austria, Italy, and Spain. And after Bill’s retirement, they made a number of trips to Ireland, Spain and Portugal. During these travels, Jean photographed people and scenery and used many of these photographs to develop her paintings over the years. She took advantage of many art classes and was an accomplished and prolific painter. Her extended family now enjoys many of her paintings — an icy Maine cove, lobster boats, a wharf covered in traps, as well as Portuguese fishing boats, and walled cities in Spain.
After Bill retired from the Air Force, they settled in East Pittston and Jean finished her Bachelor of Science degree. She soon decided that teaching was not “her thing” — exploring was. And she explored with an artist’s eye. Numerous days she would hop in the car with her camera, paints, and easel — off exploring the many peninsulas and back roads of Mid-coast Maine. She knew when the lilacs and lupine would bloom and when the cat-n-nine tails and sea lavender would be perfect for gathering. And she knew how far to drive and where to go for the best loaf of homemade bread, the tastiest crabmeat roll or lobster stew, the freshest fish and vegetables, and the cleanest fiddleheads.
Jean and Bill moved to Bar Harbor in later years, built a lovely home filled with items from their travels, and Jean started exploring and photographing Downeast Maine, Acadia National Park and Schoodic Peninsula.
Jean had a fascinating life and at the age of 90, she could recount very precise, detailed stories of growing up in Bangor, climbing Mount Fuji, sharing the home of a German family, traveling through the hills of Spain, or taking a painting class in Kennebunkport.
Jean was predeceased by her loving husband of 69 years, Bill; and Bill’s sister, Joy Jones. Jean is survived by their three children — Roberta Henderson and husband, Dana, of Augusta; Jeffrey Fowler, and wife, Loma, of Parker, Colo.; and Deborah Hawkes and husband, Ed, of Bar Harbor. She is also survived by her four sisters, Rosemary Gray, Helen McKenzie, Betty Marston, and Callie Davis; as well as her sister-in-law Marion Crosby. Jean is also survived by her beloved grandchildren, Daniel Poors (partner, Stephanie Scott, and her boys, Landan and Jedd); Kim Poors (daughter, Jessica); Jennifer Krog (husband, Mike, and children, Lainie and Gabe); Megan Lane (husband, Tom, and children, Maggie, Nora, and Ben); and Molly Diekmann (fiancé, Dan Wright); as well as daughter-in-law, Barbara Diekmann, and many nieces and nephews.
Jean’s family has great appreciation for the remarkable staff at Courtland Rehab in Ellsworth and their kind, loving care of both Bill and Jean.
A memorial service will be held later at the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Augusta. In lieu of flowers, a donation could be made to the Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org).