Editor’s Note: Every Sunday, The Herald-Mail airs “A Life Remembered”. Each story in this continuing series takes a look back – through the eyes of family, friends, colleagues, and more – on a recently deceased community member. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Doug Fowler, who died on November 22 at the age of 66. Fowler’s obituary was published online in The Herald-Mail on November 27.
Famous local football coach Doug Fowler grew up in Hagerstown at a time when the area still had a rural feel, which was perfect for a boy who loved the outdoors.
Doug’s father, David Fowler, worked for C&P Telephone and his mother was a telephone operator. They lived just east of where Dual Highway passes today, and it turned out that was the place he would never leave.
Fast forward to when Doug, a former Washington County Junior Football League coach, and his wife Jane met and were finally married.
Jane recalled how they got their first home in Falling Waters, W.Va. But they wanted their kids to attend schools in Maryland, so they started looking for a place to build to get there.
They ended up where Doug grew up building their home in 1988 along Harvard Road.
The study of coaching
Jane remembered how they walked around the area after they brought their property, and Doug spoke of his memories there.
“’I used to go up here with my friends and camp in this field,” recalls Jane, saying her husband had said. Doug and his pals used to hunt and fish in the local streams “with their dogs running with them,” Jane said.
Fowler’s love for the sport was cemented early in his youth. He played football at South Hagerstown High School, where he graduated in 1972, and his fascination with the game has never left him.
Then he turned to coaching.
Jane remembers when they first met and were together at the Tortuga restaurant.
He had a question for her.
Could she type a letter for him in his bid to secure the head coach job for the Williamsport Vikings in the Washington County Junior Football League?
He got the job, but Jane remembers how difficult it was at first.
But Doug didn’t give up and instead studied the art of coaching with people who understood him, his wife said.
He ultimately dominated the field, amassing a 190-40-2 record and 13 league championships.
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Herald-Mail Media sports writer Bob Parsailiti wrote in a December 6 column which Doug coached in a bygone era from 1978 to 2001.
Parsailiti compared Doug’s coaching to the work of a farmer: knowing how to grow, rotate and cultivate the equivalent of a year’s worth of crops.
And the kids were different back then, too, Parsailiti said.
“The young players were sponges, soaking up all the instructions. And the children were like Teflon because they weren’t so sensitive to laconic words. It was at a time when young children were dying of longing for discipline and strong regiments. It was a day when young players did not call their coaches by their first name, “Parsailiti wrote.
Hagerstown City Manager Scott Nicewarner remembered Doug at a Hagerstown City Council meeting on November 23, a day after Doug died following a battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Nicewarner said his children attended South Hagerstown High School with Doug and Jane’s children, Dan and Jamie. Nicewarner said he and Doug also coached in YMCA sports leagues.
“And how we got through a season without either of us getting sent off is really amazing to me. We were way too competitive back then,” said Nicewarner. “He’s going to be sorely, sorely missed.
While Doug went to South High, Jane went to North Hagerstown High School.
“When we first met it was a tough transition,” recalls Jane, joking that they used to argue over which side to sit on when the two schools met. in the sport. She eventually became a fan of the Rebels when their children went to South High.
All about teamwork
Doug has taken his success with a heavy dose of humility.
“I don’t think I know much about football,” he once said in a YouTube video mentioned by Parsailiti. Doug said in the video that he feels he just knows how to win and get people’s respect.
Jane remembered when Doug explained to her that a head coach doesn’t have to know everything about football. It’s just important for the person to have good people helping them, she recalled telling him.
“You all make a team. That’s why you call it a team,” she said, echoing his point of view.
Doug was a huge fan of the Baltimore Ravens, and while in hospital in August, a former member of his Williamsport Vikings team contacted the Ravens organization about what Doug was going through. In return, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh sent Doug a personal greeting video,
Harbaugh said he had just left the field with the team, who had a “tough good practice in the heat.” Harbaugh told Doug he was aware of “your tough training that you go through every day” and that the Ravens are praying for him.
The couple’s children both played sports, and daughter Jamie said her father never missed a game. As a softball pitcher, Jamie said she always ignores the crowd when she is on the mound. But she always heard that “voice on the hill” that her father encouraged her.
At Doug’s funeral at the Douglas A. Fiery Funeral Home on December 1, the family announced that a “Doug Fowler Fellowship” would be established in his memory through the Community Foundation of Washington County.
Besides his love of the sport, Doug began his career working on the assembly line at the local Mack Trucks factory. The company moved much of its work out of the region in the 1980s and offered workers a few options, including a buyout and the ability to train in a different field.
Doug accepted the company’s offer, getting training in electronics.
He got a job with Bank Design and Equipment, working as a technician responsible for maintaining banking operations such as ATMs and safes.
“Anything that breaks in a bank, he should come and fix it,” Jane said.
Hunting by phone
Doug’s love for the outdoors has continued over the years. He hunted at the FKD Hunt Club in the Hancock area and later at the P&R Hunt Club near Big Pool. He fished “wherever he could find a spot” along the Potomac River, on smaller streams and in the Blairs Valley area, Jane said.
He eventually quit his job due to disability after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. And when he stopped going in the woods, he “hunted by phone,” keeping in touch with his son Dan in the woods as the younger Fowler sought to catch an animal.