Vice Admiral, United States Navy
SARASOTA, FLORIDA: As one of the top Navy officials in the Reagan Administration, Vice Admiral Earl Fowler helped oversee an unprecedented expansion and modernization of the Navy's fleet during the 1980s.
Fowler, who suffered a fatal heart attack at sea February 8, 2008, while on a South American cruise with his wife to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, helped carry out President Reagan's pledge to bolster the nation's military strength, including the goal of a 600-ship Navy.
Fowler culminated his 42-year Navy career as commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command and Chief Engineer of the Navy in Alexandria, Virginia, from 1980 until he retired in 1985.
Responsible for nearly a third of the Navy's $100 billion budget, Fowler was adept at dealing with members of Congress who questioned the Navy's oversight, said retired Rear Admiral Don Harvey of Sarasota.
"I think both sides of the aisle respected him because everyone had the idea that he knew what he was talking about and he was honest," Harvey said.
Fowler could have retired more than 20 years earlier, but continued to serve "because he liked what he was doing and the Navy had been good to him and kept promoting him," said his wife, Helen.
Born September 29, 1925, in Jacksonville, Florida, received a mechanical engineering degree from Georgia Tech in 1946 and an electrical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1949.
He joined the Navy in 1943 and served aboard several vessels.
During his Navy career he worked on numerous military programs, including the Apollo space program, oceanographic research, surveillance and space systems.
"He came across as being very amiable and pleasant, but when the situation required it, he could be very forceful and firm," Harvey said.
Fowler received several awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.
He and his wife bought a beachfront condo on Siesta Key in 1976 and frequented the area before he retired. They continued to divide their time between Alexandria and Sarasota after he retired.
After his Navy career, he headed his own consulting firm, the Arlington-based Fowler International Group, and served on the boards of several companies, including Intelliworxx and the nonprofit G..Wiz science museum.
He also was active in the Navy League, the Military Officers Association, the Sons of the American Revolution and the Church of the Redeemer.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Mary Fowler and Joan Fowler, both of Alexandria.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. March 14 at the Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on April 9, 2008.
Memorial donations may be made to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, 875 N. Randolph St., Suite 225, Arlington, Virginia 22203, or the Church of the Redeemer, 222 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, Florida 34236.
Posted: 4 March 2008 Updated: 5 April 2008