The door cracked open and a young Jack Fowler stepped out into the waxing light of a cold Iowa morning. Jack had work to do. A depression era kid with a single, disabled mother, Jack was the breadwinner at a very young age. His days went something like this…
Milk cows, go to school, work the lunch rush at his Aunt's Maid-Rite restaurant, back to school, set ink plates at the newspaper after school, and then set pins at the bowling alley 'til midnight, go to sleep....repeat. That was an average schedule when Jack was an eighth grader! In the summers he would work helping his Uncle Charlie pour concrete and repair lawnmowers. By the time Jack was in high school he was manager of the Vinton bowling alley. But the thing is, if you ask Jack, he would not tell you that any of this was hard. He would tell you that it was always a lot of fun. Because for Jack, work was fun. Work and family, faith and commitment just ran through it all like the butter that mixes with the peas and the carrots, each making the other that much sweeter. Work was just what you did, often with the people you loved.
After graduating from Vinton High School in 1950, Jack found a small school named Park College, just outside of Kansas City, which had a student work program (of course). Jack convinced the school that with his construction background he could make repairs around campus on the weekend, go to school during the weekdays, and work at the school's milk pasteurizing facility at night to pay for his school and expenses. During his summers, he used his concrete and carpentry skills to start a silo business, building and repairing silos all over the Midwest. Jack very literally worked his way through college.
But the smartest job he ever had was a volunteer gig welcoming the incoming freshmen to Park College. In the fall of 1951, Jack jumped on the running board of Barbara Hays' father's car and guided them to the front door of her dormitory. Jack says that when he saw Barbara in the back seat of that car it was love at first sight. (Well at least it was for him!) He invited her for an ice cream sundae that night and they were together ever since. Barb always said, and it was true… that she married the first guy she met in college!
One of the best things about Jack is that he made good choices, and then he stuck with them. He married Barbara in 1953, took a short honeymoon to Colorado, and after graduating from Park College in 1954, they loaded up their truck and their infant son Tom, (named after Barb's father, Tom Hays), and headed for "Colorado or Bust". Jack knew, when they came over the hill into Boulder, just like when he first met Barb, it was love at first sight. They bought their first house in 1955 on 5th Street above North Boulder Park for $4,500.00 and it came with an extra lot! Jack went to work in Boulder, and he never looked back.
Jack and Barbara had three more children, John, Cris, and Dan. With a growing family and a history of loving the countryside, Jack and Barb decided to move out of town and into the country, way out on Jay Road! In 1966, they moved to what the family has since simply called, "The Farm". Their lives were full of kids, sheep, horses, and family dinners. There were fences to fix and animals to be fed and Jack knew this kind of work was good for growing kids.
And of course, it was a great choice, and of course they never looked back. Today, The Farm is a gathering place for Jack's four children, 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren!
Soon after moving to Boulder, Jack decided it would be a good place to get into real estate. Another great choice, and he never looked back. He started in a small downtown Boulder office, and soon opened Fowler Real Estate. In 1963, when Jack built his office, 28th Street was a dirt road, and people were always asking him why he was putting an office "way out there"?! Jack is often remembered as one of the "old guard", a pioneer in Boulder real estate.
After nearly sixty years with an active Colorado real estate license, at the age of 84, Jack got a phone call from the Colorado Board of Realtors. "Jack, we're going have to make a custom 60-year pin for you because we've never had a member complete 60 consecutive years of being a broker in Colorado!" Of course, Jack made a great career choice and he never looked back.
Jack enjoyed his years of serving as President of the Boulder Board of Realtors and being named Realtor of the Year. In addition to brokerage, he also developed several projects around Boulder. In 1978 he teamed up with his son Tom to develop a 363 unit condominium community known as Gold Run Condominiums. The project took 15 years, surviving a recession and high interest rates, to become one of Boulder's most successful condominium communities.
It was always interesting driving around Boulder with Jack because there is a story around every corner. A story about a property that he had bought or sold or fixed or built. His real estate legacy extends to his family, with nearly all of his children and grandchildren involved in some aspect of owning, developing, investing, managing, and selling real estate. Three generations of Fowlers have had, and continue to have successful real estate careers, thanks to Jack's example of work and family, faith and commitment.
Jack had a great love for his church, "The Pine Street Church" where he served as Chair of the Property Committee for many years. He also spearheaded the building of the adjacent "Children's House" which now serves as a preschool. Even church was joyful work for Jack and his family. Barbara served as wedding coordinator, the kids washed dishes for church dinners, and during any Sunday sermon, Jack would often be found checking on the furnace or repairing a door. There it was again…Work and Family, Faith and Commitment.
Jack spent his "retirement" years working.... go figure...but his work changed. He moved his office out to The Farm, where he still tended to real estate concerns. But each day he would put on his boots and go to work on the land, fixing up the lake and the land around it, irrigating, growing hay, and serving as Ditch Captain for many years! Of course, it was work, so therefore it was fun, like all the work he had done. Sometimes he would go to nearby farm sales, buy a bucket of tools and bolts for ten dollars. He would then sell a hammer from the collection to some young farmer for five dollars and come home pleased with his deal and talk about it over dinner because you see, you can have all the success in the world, and leave that depression mentality behind…or not. In the end it wasn't much different than the beginning. Peas and carrots and butter. Work and Family, Faith and Commitment. Make great choices, and never look back.
The heavens opened wide the day Jack died, welcoming him home. A family friend said that we didn't need to worry about Jack making it into heaven because he was always looking ahead, and he probably bought a corner of the Pearly Gates back when it was cheap! So, it's certain he's up there putting his boots on each morning, signing up to be Heaven's Ditch Captain, and waiting for the rest of us to show up.
Jack Fowler lived a life of ultimate proof that hard work, perseverance, being fair, having faith, and unconditional family love are the keys to a happy and successful life. Jack's legacy lives on in his wife Barbara of 67 years, sons Tom, John, Dan (Shelly) and daughter Cris (Gary) and their beloved grandchildren and great grandchildren, all of whom look forward to celebrating Jack's life at the Fowler Farm sometime this coming summer.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to The Pine Street Church, at 1237 Pine Street, Boulder, CO, 80302.
Published in The Daily Camera on Jan. 24, 2021.