John William Fowler, 89, led the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel design and construction team

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John William Fowler
John William Fowler

John William Fowler, 89, peacefully passed away Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, at home in the care of his family.

Born on his family farm Aug. 11, 1927, to John Cary and Lilage Castles Fowler, he graduated from Gaffney (South Carolina) High School in 1944. After serving briefly in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II, he graduated in 1948 from Clemson University with highest honors in civil engineering and was an avid, lifelong Clemson Tigers alumnus.

Mr. Fowler’s career began with the American Bridge Company in Chicago, where he met his first wife, Betty O’Brien. Moving his family to Norfolk in 1956, he led the project management team for design and construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. During his 30-year career with Tidewater Construction Corporation, he rose to corporate chief engineer and executive V.P. After his retirement in 1985, he created and operated an engineering consulting firm until his death.

Licensed in 19 states, he was a specialist involved in extensive international and domestic projects for ship and transfer terminals, piers, tunnels, bridges, paper mills and other industrial plants. He was a special consultant with Mueser Rutledge Engineers (New York), the City of Boston (‘Big Dig’ Bridge), the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard (lighthouses and harbors), and Hermes Abrasives LTD (Germany headquarters). In his later years, he found much joy consulting with local projects, particularly his colleagues with the Norfolk public school board.

An active member of numerous professional organizations, Mr. Fowler was past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Engineers Club of Hampton Roads, member of the honorary The MOLES, and served on the Clemson University Engineering Advisory Board. He authored numerous technical papers, many presented at national meetings.

Mr. Fowler was a devoted member of Thalia United Methodist Church of Virginia Beach since 1957. He lived by the Golden Rule and taught his children Christian character values, integrity and humility. His diligent work ethic to God, country, career and community was driven by “doing the best with what God gave him.” He was a true Southern gentleman always putting his best foot forward, and was easily recognized as “the man in the (signature) dress hat.”

Mr. Fowler served his community as a Boy Scout leader, Little League Baseball coach, and member of the American Legion. A golf enthusiast, he was also a proud member of the hole-in-one club.

Mr. Fowler’s greatest passion was for his family and heritage. He was preceded in deaeth by his parents and brother, Jim Fowler.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Carol Gardner Fowler; sons, Randy (Emily), Ron (Nada) and Craig (Amy); granddaughters, Chelsea (Scott) Daniels and Kiah and Tara Fowler; stepdaughter, Jenny Michonski (Jack); stepson, Ty Holland; step-grandchildren, Ashley and Austin Michonski; sister, Betty Pearson; sister-in-law, Jeanne Fowler; and nephews and their children.

A visitation will take place from 6-8 pm, Friday March 3, at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts., 2002 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach. A funeral service will be conducted at 10 a.m. Saturday March 4, at Thalia United Methodist Church, 4321 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach, with a reception following at the church. Interment and graveside services will be held at noon Monday, March 6, at Oakland Cemetery, 714 College Drive, Gaffney, S.C.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Thalia United Methodist Church; or the ALS Association, 7507 Standish Place, Rockville, MD 20855.