Emma Louise Fowler

She taught swimming for more than 50 years and was a longtime volunteer and advocate of physical fitness

January 13, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Emma Louise Fowler, a former Baltimore swimming instructor and longtime volunteer who remained a physical fitness advocate until she was in her early 90s, died Saturday of heart failure at the Wesley Home in Mount Washington. She was 99.

She was born Emma Louise Lehman in Baltimore and raised in the city's Pimlico neighborhood.

Mrs. Fowler, who never used her first name and instead went by Louise, was a 1927 graduate of Western High School, and earned a degree in physical education from Marjorie Webster Junior College in Washington in 1929.

For more than 50 years, Mrs. Fowler taught swimming through the Red Cross and at the Young Women's Christian Association and Young Men's Christian Association in downtown Baltimore.

She had been the aquatics director at the Jewish Community Center in Pimlico and also at Camp Whipporwill in Pasadena.

"Girl Scouts remember her as 'Water Lou' when she was waterfront director at Camp Whipporwill," said her daughter, Elizabeth L. "Betty" Jones of Columbia.

Through the years, Mrs. Fowler earned awards for her Red Cross voluntarism.

In 1968, she received the organization's Hall of Fame Award for more than 9,000 hours of volunteer service.

She was presented the Dr. Samuel McLanahan Jr. Award for outstanding service in 1976, and a decade later, the Clara D. Tucker Award for her 54 years of Red Cross voluntarism.

Beginning in the 1940s, Mrs. Fowler, who had owned and operated an in-home nursery school for several years, began volunteering at Children's Hospital, working with polio patients.

She also volunteered at Good Samaritan Hospital for 20 years and was a "hugger" of babies at the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital, her daughter said.

Mrs. Fowler also volunteered for many years with the League for the Handicapped.

"For a number of years, she assisted a blind lady, Norma Claypool, who was a foster parent for several severely handicapped children, by reading, shopping and transporting them to their doctor's appointments," her daughter said.

In 1958, the Mount Washington resident moved to Northwood, where she lived until moving to the Dulaney Valley Apartments in Towson. Since 1988, she had been a resident of the Wesley Home.

Mrs. Fowler was an active member of the Mountain Club of Maryland, the Canoe Club, Satellite Square Dance Club and Baltimore Bike Club.

She also enjoyed playing tennis and played badminton three times a week until she was 88. She also jogged and was a member of several bridge clubs.

In 1981, when her first great-grandchild was born, Mrs. Fowler hopped aboard her 10-speed bicycle and pedaled round trip from her Northwood home to St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson to welcome the new baby to her family.

"I was also a member of the Baltimore Bike Club, and 10 years after she rode to the hospital, she was still outriding me," said her eldest granddaughter, Linda Standiford of Cockeysville. "She loved bike riding."

Mrs. Fowler never smoked and enjoyed an "occasional glass of wine and always beer with crabs," her daughter said.

After moving to the Wesley Home, there was no letdown in Mrs. Fowler's activities. She volunteered in the health care unit, was a front-door security guard, and she enjoyed ceramics and chair caning.

She had also been an avid gardener and had been a member of the Mount Washington Garden Club and the Mount Washington Women's Club.

Mrs. Fowler was a member of the Northwood Appold United Methodist Church, where, during the 1960s, she was a weekday nursery school driver. She also had been a church missionary in Jamaica.

"Louise is dedicated, hardworking, hard-playing and sincere, a humanitarian, and the envy of everyone half her age," wrote Gloria Galperin, a former swimming student and teacher, on the occasion of Mrs. Fowler's 75th birthday. "Once you've had the pleasure of knowing Louise, you're hooked on never forgetting her."

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

Also surviving are four other grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and a two great-great-granddaughters. Her son, Robert Fowler, died in 1999; and a marriage to Roy Fowler ended in divorce.

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