Former Commissioner Jack Fowler visits Portage

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When I caught up with Jack Fowler by telephone Thursday, he was busy overseeing a company that was installing solar panels on the roof of his home.

"My energy costs should drop to almost zero," Jack proudly noted.

At 94, the former Portage County Commissioner and pharmacist is still going strong. He moved to Sun City, Arizona, 22 miles west of Phoenix 30 years ago.

I was out of town when Jack and his daughter, Jean Donie, also of Arizona, were hosted by Dave and Debbie Petrone at their Frank Lloyd Wright design home in Ravenna, but it sounds like a good time was had by all, more than 30 friends and former employees of Jack's, from his Portage County Commissioner days, turning out for the occasion. Debbie and Jean are best friends. They went through school together when the Fowlers resided in Ravenna before moving to their Sandy Lake residence in Rootstown.

Jack's wife, Peg, passed away years ago. A person who savors company, Jack has a companion, Elaine Foy. They like to travel and have been around the world twice. Jack has what the French call "jeaux de vie" or zest for living and it makes him fun to be around. He is extremely intelligent. Time Magazine once wrote him up as a new breed of senior citizen in an article about senior living in Over 55 Communities like Sun City. Jack, well into his 70s by then, had formed a computer literacy club and an investment club.

"I still enjoy investing," he said.

As commissioner, he turned the old hospital into the county administration building. Without Jack's initiative, Ravenna would have been stuck with its own version of the old Kent Hotel, the eyesore that businessman and philanthropist Ron Burbick recently rejuvenated. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tom Buchanan, an all but dissertation doctorate in history, worked for Jack on that project back then to pay for his way through graduate school. He once told me the experienced was life-changing because it resulted in his going to law school and becoming an attorney.

I remember Jack, as commissioner, trying to explain the Breakneck Creek watershed that supplies both Ravenna and Kent. Finally, we put on our hiking boots and walked parts of it, Jack showing me the canal that the Cleveland Worsted Mills in the 19th century had used immigrant labor to construct to bring water from Congress Lake to the Sandy Lake portion of the system, thwarting a continental divide, probably something illegal today. Caring for that water supply, he said, is important to the survival of both towns.

He consistently favored minimizing debt and when he served on the Ravenna Board of Education, helped institute the permanent improvement levy as a pay-as-you-go plan to keep school facilities in good shape.

Portage County and Ravenna are better because of Jack's leadership.

New hotel, great start

They say if you want something done to ask a busy person.

Anne Moneypenney is like that. She runs 800 rentals units in Kent under the auspices of the Jack Kohl Agency. She's on the Kent Area Chamber Board and is secretary of the not-for-profit Regional Economic Growth Corporation . She is active in various capacities at her church, Ravenna's Immaculate Conception. She recently hired on at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center.

"It's part-time," Anne assured me a week ago last Friday, the day the new hotel opened. She gave me a quick tour of the facilities where many of the staff appear to be young people, possibly students. Young people also make up the bulk of the renters of the units Anne manages. Anne serves as hostess for the hotel's Zenas Restaurant/1910 Bar and Lounge.

The restaurant, Anne says, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and, "the food is great."

Howard Boyle, president of Hometown Bank, said he and Linda ate there as part of a party of 10 and were pleased with their entrees. Howard was told that 16 rooms were booked for the opening night.

Doug and Karen Fuller were among the first-nighters and so were Dr. Randall Smith, MD and his wife, Sue.

Portage County Attorney Chris Mallin took a room and was the first person to use the hotel's hot tub. Chris said those enjoying the hot tub and pool room that night could watch a beautiful sunset and then the evening stars over the skyline of Kent's renewed downtown.

Some Kent City Council members were first nighters too. Heidi Shaffer, who has a Yoga school and represents Ward 5, was one. Stock broker and financial advisor, Garret Ferrara, who represents Ward 1 and Garret's wife, Michele, also a stock broker,were first-nighters too. They rented out the presidential suite where they marked the Hotel's opening with family and friends.

Visiting Gettysburg

Husbands play golf and go on fishing trips, but wives get together too.

The book group Janet belongs to has gone for the last four years on brief annual get-aways, all arranged by Jan Ryan, all within driving distance. They took, "the Devil in the White City" tour in Chicago four years ago. The next year, they visited Asheville, North Carolina, home of the Biltmore, the fabulous Vanderbilt mansion. Last year, they traveled to Niagara on the Lake in Canada.

This year, the ladies have just returned from a three-day visit to Gettysburg, site of the bloodiest Civil War battle and, coincidentally, the community where President and Mrs. Eisenhower, chose to retire. The ladies joined a guided bus tour of the battleground and visited the unpretentious Eisenhower home where the president raised cattle. The home proved a turning point in the Cold War when President Eisenhower and the Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev met there. Krushchev reportedly was moved by the presence of Eisenhower's young grandchildren. The two men agreed to start nuclear arms talks there.

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  • He has "jeaux de vie" (games of life)? That's much less common than joie de vivre. Either way, best of luck and long life, Jack!