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Lehigh Valley says goodbye to Linny Fowler

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 09 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 11 2013 05:56:38 AM CST

Remembering Linny

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

The Lehigh Valley said goodbye to a local legend Sunday afternoon.

A standing room-only crowd packed into Bethlehem's First Presbyterian Church to remember Marlene 'Linny' Fowler, who was behind some of the region's most recognized landmarks.

At Fowler's funeral, the crowd sang "All You Need is Love." The Beatles hit was one of the philanthropist's favorite songs.

"When I reflect on our friend Linny, love is the first thing that comes to mind," said Jeff Parks, president of Artsquest, the non-profit group behind Musikfest and the Bethlehem SteelStacks campus.

Fowler died Monday at 73 years old.

"We lost a special person," said Don Cunningham, director of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

Fowler's influence is everywhere in the Lehigh Valley. She helped redevelop the SteelStacks campus and the Banana Factory arts center. Northampton Community College's Fowler Family Southside Center also bears her name.

"In the last 20 years, many of the things that we know of in the city of Bethlehem and beyond and the Southside, the revitalization," said Cunningham.

But Fowler's true legacy was with kids, including her work with the popular Freddy Awards that honor the high school arts. Several spoke Sunday about how Fowler quietly, with little fanfare, paid their way through college.

"She had a huge heart," said Freedom High School senior Yancy Munoz. "She just loved it -- loved working with the kids."

Fowler inherited a fortune from her late father, who once ran UPS. She spent the rest of her life giving much of it away. Nestor Estremera with the LANTA public transit agency remembered her taking 200 disadvantaged kids to a baseball game.

"The beautiful thing about her was that she sat with us, with the children, as we watched the game," he said.

Linny Fowler spent so much time working for others, that her family said she neglected her own health problems. According to friends, she died of lung complications.