Cover photo for Betsy Helen McCall Fowler's Obituary
Betsy Helen McCall Fowler Profile Photo
1936 Betsy 2021

Betsy Helen McCall Fowler

June 30, 1936 — October 12, 2021

Betsy Helen McCall Fowler passed peacefully in the home she imagined, designed, and sustained in Christmas, FL on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Helen provided a calm spirit, a steady guidepost, and an overflowing force of love to her family and friends.
Helen was born June 30, 1936 in Baxley, GA. She spent the early part of her childhood in Georgia where she was raised by her parents, Berry Frank McCall and Jimmie C Harris McCall, to have an appreciation for farming and the land on which they lived. Late in life Helen would still recall fond memories of growing up on the farm, learning to harvest tobacco, cotton, and pecans. Her favorite was tobacco season when the women of multiple generations would work to string and hang the tobacco leaves on rods high up in the rafters of the tobacco barn. It was a time of community when the women would sing and tell stories as they worked, and Helen loved to listen to the older women talk.
By the time Helen was in junior high school, the family had moved to Central Florida. In 1954 she was a member of the first graduating class of Boone High School to spend all three years of their high school career at the new school. While in high school, Helen gained a love of woodworking. Insisting on taking shop class with the boys, she saw no reason why she shouldn’t be allowed to learn the skills and tools of the woodshop simply because she was a girl. She excelled in both shop class and home economics. This blended skillset served her well for the remainder of her life.
While in high school, Helen began working after school for Stern’s Jewelers in downtown Orlando. The store owners, George and Evelyn Sternberg, loved her. She was a beloved employee for several years as a young woman.
Helen married Ron Fowler of Orlando, FL on December 27, 1954. When Ron was ready to propose, it was Mr. Sternberg who designed the engagement ring. Helen and Ron were married for 66 years, during which time they were inseparable. They defined for their family and friends what a loving, respectful partnership could be. When Ron passed away in August of this year, Helen held on only for two months longer before it was time for her to be with him once again.
Helen gave up a professional career when she became a mother; she stayed busy as a full time mother of three and found endless opportunities to volunteer her time and talents to causes she believed in. As president of the PTA at Pershing Elementary School in the 1960s, she facilitated many programs for teachers and students, and Helen was responsible for major improvements of the school’s library. In the mid-1960s she created a Girl Scout Brownie Troupe, acting as its first Troupe Leader. She went on to serve as a Girl Scouts Juniors Leader for many years, long after her youngest daughter aged out of the program. She later served as the Cookie Chairman for the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council. Helen believed strongly in opportunities for girls to develop confidence, independence, and leadership. She also volunteered for many years for United Way, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Greater Central Florida. She participated annually for many years in the Mothers March of Dimes, which began in 1950 to eradicate polio in the United States. Once that battle was won, the March raised funds for the health of all mothers and babies.
Helen volunteered for many years with the Orange Audubon Society in Central Florida as a foster parent for injured or sick wildlife. If it had fur or feathers, she could nurse it back to health. Her children remember the house being a temporary home to all kinds of creatures including raccoons, rabbits, a litter of opossums, and countless birds. Standing out in their memory is a purple martin named Josephine who Helen took in as a hatchling. It took over a year to get Josephine to join a flock and be fully released back into the wild. But each year, as the purple martins journeyed back on their migration route, Josephine would leave the flock for a day or two to return and visit Helen at the Fowler family home on Lake Conway. The only creature Helen took in that wasn’t ever able to be released back into the wild was a screech owl she named Babbotts. Though not for lack of trying, she was never able to successfully teach Babbotts to hunt on his own. So the little owl became a long time resident of the Fowler household for the next ten years or so. Visitors to the home would be surprised to see an owl flying about or perching up on pieces of furniture.
When her husband, Ron, became an author, Helen was his trusted editor and typist. Ron drafted everything longhand on a yellow legal pad. In keeping with their indelible partnership, every book and magazine article he wrote was edited and typed first by Helen before it went on to the New York publishers.
Helen was an artist and craftswoman. A beautiful carpenter, she built and painted furniture, cabinets, shelves, and Christmas ornaments. She spent countless hours out in her studio creating woodworking and stained glass. She dabbled in photography and ceramics. Her hand painted Easter eggs were exquisite and legendary to all who hunted for them each spring. She was an accomplished seamstress. Her grandchildren remember half of her upstairs loft designated as her sewing studio. If it could be made of fabric, she could fashion it. Her children fondly remember that every Halloween costume was handmade and never store bought.
Helen loved gardening and nature. She enjoyed being outdoors and the seeds her parents planted as farmers connected to the earth took firm root in her soul. She loved the scrub oak woods of Florida and the lush mountains of North Carolina. She and Ron purchased a one room cabin in Franklin, NC where they enjoyed spending many weeks in the summer with their family for several decades. When they moved to Christmas, FL later in life, Helen designed a little cabin in the Florida woods to be their retreat. She turned it into a haven of love for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as friends and extended family.
Helen’s greatest legacy is found in the generations she leaves behind. To her grandchildren she was simply known as BaBa. They describe her collectively as “the best cook and carpenter there ever was,” a fierce example of a strong and capable woman filled with imagination and grace, a loving pillar of constant support, and an excellent shot with a rifle. One of her grandchildren stated, “To know her is to know love.” The grandchildren will always remember her home as a place of sanctuary and tenderness. It was a place where imagination was encouraged and nurtured, where tea parties and treasure hunts abounded. It was a place to curl up on the couch with a good movie or a good book, to run and play in the woods, and sit down at her round kitchen table for whatever dinner was being made from scratch on the stove. Everything tasted better at BaBa’s house with her love as a key ingredient to every recipe.
Helen is survived by her daughter, Karen Fowler Whittlesey, Oviedo, FL; son, James Benton Fowler, Orlando, FL; six grandchildren, Clancy Hewitt, C.B. Hewitt, Lindsay Garner Hostetler, Ashley Garner Dringo, Kaley Garner Lukas, and James Dalton Fowler; five great-grandchildren, Ethan Parker Hewitt, Sarah Ellen Hewitt, Charlotte Helen Hewitt, Amelia June Dringo, and Caden James Lukas; and two siblings, Frank Edward McCall and Dorothy Grace McCall Wade. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ronald James Fowler; daughter, Betsy Ellen Fowler Hewitt; and sister, Mary Ann McCall Cruit. A private celebration of Helen’s life will be held on Saturday, November 20, 2021. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council ( https://www.citrus-gs.org/en/donate-now/donate.html ). An Online Guestbook is available at www.hardenpauli.com , and the arrangements are made by Harden/Pauli Funeral Home, Eustis.
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