Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) is deeply saddened by the loss of National Vice President David Fowler. Fowler passed away on February 18, 2014, after battling a respiratory illness. He was 53.
“David Fowler devoted his life to helping veterans who have spinal cord injury or disease,” said Bill Lawson, national president of Paralyzed Veterans. “He lived for 30 years after his injury and was an inspiration to us all—a perfect example that life does not end after serious injury. He will be deeply missed, and we will honor his memory by continuing to support our nation’s paralyzed veterans and ensure that they have what they need to thrive as David did.”
Fowler began his life of service advocating on behalf of veterans and all people with disabilities in 1985, when he joined the Texas Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans. A U.S. Army veteran, he enlisted in the service in 1983, where he became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. In 1984 he suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in paralysis from the shoulders down.
Shortly after his injury he began mentoring other spinal cord injured veterans with quality of life issues by serving as a “Peer Partner” through a Department of Veterans Affairs program. He was also a volunteer counselor serving veterans with new injuries in the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston.
In 1991 he became actively involved in the Texas Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America, and over the years he became an ardent leader for the organization. Fowler was elected to the Executive Committee of Paralyzed Veterans of America and had served as a national vice president since 2011, a role he described as “very rewarding.”
In addition to his work with Paralyzed Veterans, he was a member of Disabled American Veterans, the 82nd Airborne Association, and the United/Continental Accessible Travel Advisory Board, where he educated the travel industry to understand the unique issues related to air travel for people with disabilities.
In 2006, Fowler was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. He was an active and influential member, including making policy recommendations to the governor and legislature related to veterans services in Texas.
Fowler also served on the Houston Commission on Disabilities and other committees that addressed accessibility in local stadiums and the Metrorail transit system.
Despite the severity of his injury, Fowler participated in a variety of adaptive sports. In 20 years, Fowler never missed the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in which he competed in power soccer, slalom, wheelchair races and power relay events—and used adaptive equipment to bowl, according to Fowler, “better than he could before he was injured.” After attending his first NVWG, Fowler said he thought, “If I can do this, what else can I do? How can I pay back this organization that is improving my life?”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to David’s family at this difficult time, especially his wife, Marilou, who has been his steadfast partner and has become a member of the Paralyzed Veterans’ family,” said Homer Townsend, executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial endowment fund has been set up through Paralyzed Veterans of America. The David Fowler Memorial Endowment will assist in educating clinicians about spinal cord injury, researching better care and assisting veterans with satisfying careers. Memorial donations can be sent to Paralyzed Veterans of America, David Fowler Memorial, 801 Eighteenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20006-3517.