Our father, Captain Vincent G. Fowler has always been a hero to us. He is our hero because of the way he lived not the way he died. This June 4th, 2019 will be the 20th anniversary of his passing and we acknowledge this anniversary by choosing to celebrate his life and the way he impacted the lives of the people around him. We also acknowledge all the good that has come from his tragedy. To sum up his life or the impression he left on our lives is impossible. However the word impossible did not exist in his dictionary, nor is it in ours! He truly believed in the “We Can Do That” mentality. This motto still lives on loud and strong amongst his family and his fellow firefighters, especially the members of Ladder 7 in Manhattan.
Captain Fowler, known affectionately as “Vinny”, grew up in Queens, New York with his parents Vincent J. and Dorothy Fowler and five siblings. He eventually moved to the suburbs of Long Island with his wife Mona to raise their three daughters. Suburban life met his passions for fishing as well as coaching softball and other outdoor activities. An active member of the community who was always willing to help a neighbor, he taught his children by example showing what hard work, determination and dedication looked like. His positive, optimistic and happy- go-lucky attitude are just some of the many qualities family and friends remember about him. He was also known for his magnetic and charismatic personality, and his ability to make people laugh with his stories. Friends and family all have “Vinny stories” that are still being told today. Above all, he was a man of unyielding faith which gave him the guidance he lived and died by.
In 1978, Vinny left his air conditioning and refrigeration business to follow in his father’s footsteps of becoming a NYC Firefighter. He started his career in Ladder 123/Engine 234 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In 1990 he was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to Ladder 7 in Manhattan. In 1996 he was promoted to Captain. As an officer in the FDNY, he continually trained and educated the men around him because he believed that there was always an opportunity to learn. Education while nurturing was a talent of his that resonates with his reputation of being a well prepared and disciplined fire officer. Vinny was cited for bravery multiple times during his career and was awarded the Medal of Valor posthumously. One of his many accomplishments while in the department was spearheading efforts to update the procedures used for FDNY L.O.D.D, after a fellow firefighter and close friend passed away in 1987.
Vinny lost his life after succumbing to injuries sustained while fighting a house fire in South Ozone Park in 1999. He stayed behind to make sure that all of his men had safely exited the basement of the house. Tragically, his tank ran out of oxygen and he collapsed in the cluttered basement. Due to the congested conditions and zero visibility it was extremely difficult for rescuers to remove him from the basement. This ultimately led the department to revise their techniques for removing an unconscious firefighter from an emergency situation. The Captain Vinny Fowler Knot is presently part of the curriculum firefighters receive at the FDNY fire academy. This is very fitting because he would not have missed an opportunity to turn a tragedy into a lesson learned.
In May 2000, the elementary school P.S 108 in Queens was renamed The Captain Vincent G. Fowler School in honor of his heroic efforts and passion for education. Vinny lives on because he was able to leave the world better than how he found it. We are all better people for having known him.
Even 20 years after his passing, he continues to help and touch so many lives. The lessons he has taught others, whether a fireman he mentored or a child he coached, are being handed down to a new generation. His knowledge is being passed on and his selfless acts of kindness are being paid forward. This is his legacy. This is how he is remembered. A man of little fame or public influence was able to have a lasting impression on so many lives. He is proof that one person can make a difference.
As we acknowledge the twenty year anniversary of his passing, the Fowler Family has created a memorial fund to raise money to purchase new training equipment, specifically Down Firefighter Kits for the FDNY. The goal is to facilitate training for the rescue of an unconscious firefighter. All proceeds will go directly to this cause.
Donations can be made on the FDNY Foundation website www.fdnyfoundation.org or checks payable to the FDNY Foundation/ Captain Vincent G. Fowler Memorial Fund.
“No greater love hath man than to lay down his life for his friends.”
With love, His three favorite daughters,
Dina, Amy and Stephanie