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Ken Fowler, businessman and philanthropist, dead at 90

By Grant LaFleche, The Standard

Ken Fowler

Ken Fowler

Ken Fowler lived as though his journey would never come to an end.

The longtime St. Catharines businessman and philanthropist never stopped doing what he was passionate about it. Even at the age of 90, when many people are resigned to their twilight, he was still actively running his business.

“He never thought he was going to die,” said Peter Fowler, Ken Fowler’s son and CEO of SIR Corp. “You have to give him credit for that. He was very determined, very driven and very passionate about what he did.”

Fowler, the owner Ken Fowler Enterprises Ltd., a company with a reach that extended from Niagara across Canada and into the United States, died Monday while on vacation in the Caribbean.

Fowler left St. Catharines Collegiate after Grade 10 and began his business career in the late 1940s as a teenaged photographer in Mitchell, Ont., and eventually ran his own studio, his son said.

“He learned business in the school of hard knocks.”

He left his cameras behind to return to St. Catharines to sell real estate. He quickly graduated from selling houses to buying and developing land, eventually investing in restaurants including the first Canadian A&W in Kingston, Ont., in 1961. In 1969 became one of the founders of the now defunct Mother’s Pizza chain.

Although Ken Fowler might not be a household name to many St. Catharines residents, he is responsible for the construction of many of the homes they live in. By the 1960s he partnered with Des Vaughn, Kerry Howe and Roy Cairns to form a company that built houses across the city.

“Those houses are all over the south end of the city, Secord Woods, even north of Linwell Road,” Peter Fowler said.

He said his father formed Ken Fowler Enterprises Ltd. as a holding company to manage his various interests in housing, development and hospitality.

His father’s good fortune was also shared with the community, he said.

Ken Fowler established the Fowler Family Foundation which is still in operation today, supporting local groups including Pathstone Mental Health, Start Me Up Niagara, and the Quest Community Health Centre.

Peter Fowler said his father loved St. Catharines.

“He was born here. This was his home,” he said. “He did business in many other places, of course, but St. Catharines was where his passion was.”

Funeral services have yet to be announced, but they are expected to take place in St. Catharines late next week.