Robert “Bob” Fowler, an expert on fruit trees who co-owned his family’s landmark nursery in Newcastle, died April 1 after a lengthy illness, his family said. He was 85.
Mr. Fowler had deep roots in Placer County, where his family arrived from San Francisco in 1870. His father, Eugene, founded Fowler Nurseries in 1912 with 20,000 pear trees in Newcastle.
Robert Fowler, who joined the family business in 1948, was widely recognized for his important contributions to the fruit tree industry. During the 1950s, when pear decline was a major problem for orchards in the United States, he helped develop a rootstock that was resistant to pear decline, a devastating disease. He was a leader in efforts to introduce a strain of nonpareil almond trees that resisted noninfectious bud failure.
He was a pioneer in testing for viruses and diseases in fruit and nut trees. He worked with experts in pomology and plant pathology at UC Davis and with UC Extension farm advisers on horticulture improvements.
“He did a lot of worldwide traveling to nurseries around the world to investigate ways to do things better,” said his son Dick.
A fourth-generation Placer County resident, Robert Eugene Fowler was born Sept. 9, 1928, in Sacramento and raised in Newcastle, which was a hub of the fruit shipping industry. He attended San Rafael Military Academy in Marin County and earned a pomology degree from UC Davis.
He married his wife, Sue-Dee, in 1949 and had five children. He belonged to Lincoln Rotary Club and was active in Scottish Rite and Shrine Masonic organizations. He lived on the family ranch near Lincoln for most of his life and moved to Roseville about 10 years ago.
Fishing was a favorite pastime, including annual trips to catch steelhead trout in the Salmon and Klamath rivers. He also enjoyed dancing, especially at family weddings.
Besides his wife of 65 years and his son Dick, Mr. Fowler is survived by two other sons, Donald and Steven; two daughters, Sally Eich and Nancy Fowler-Johnson; a sister, Kathryn McKenzie; 13 grandchildren; and 25 great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life was held April 12 at Fowler Nurseries. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children; Future Farmers of America chapter at Lincoln High School in Lincoln; or the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s disease.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.