Pharmacist, county coroner, firefighter and itinerant preacher – alumnus Robert Fowler (’72) fills a unique role in his community.
You may think life in a small town is boring. “Not so,” says Bob Fowler.
Bob loves La Junta. He grew up in this southeastern Colorado town (located about 60 miles east of Pueblo) and knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a pharmacist. “The pharmacy was the bedrock of the community.”
Owned by the Comptons, a wonderful local family, the pharmacy was a typical small town drug store. “I started working there at the age of 13,” recalls Bob.
He ran the cash register, swept the floors, stocked the shelves and delivered prescriptions via bicycle. By the age of 14 he negotiated a loan from the local bank to purchase a 60cc motor scooter and was delivering in style! He worked at the pharmacy through high school and college. “They were a fabulous family to work for; so supportive. They were teachers and mentors. They taught how to take care of people.”
Bob learned some valuable lessons by working for the Compton family and attending pharmacy school at CU. “I am truly proud to say I’m a CU pharmacy graduate! That training and ability to watch surgeries at the med school gave me the expertise to do so many things. It opened many, many doors for me.”
On top of being a volunteer firefighter and managing the local Walmart pharmacy, Bob is the county coroner. “Most people think of a coroner as being Dr. Death.” But as Bob explains, the position of coroner is more Columbo than Dr. Quincy; more psychologist than medical examiner. “I like to think that I conduct psychological autopsies on the living versus pathological autopsies on the dead.”
The coroner is an elected position and does not require a medical license. As coroner he works with police, the District Attorney and a forensic pathologist (who performs autopsies) to help determine cause and manner of death -- whether that be suicide, homicide, accident or natural causes. “It’s fascinating. Things take a lot longer to piece together than you see on CSI.” Autopsy reports can take six-eight weeks and results from DNA evidence is not just a matter of minutes, it’s more like a week or longer.
From car wrecks to military crashes of B1 bombers, gang murders, and nursing home deaths – Bob has seen them all in his 34 years as county coroner.
He credits his training as a pharmacist and the support he has received from his great wife and four kids with his ability to be an effective coroner. “As a pharmacist you have to listen to people and counsel them. As a coroner, I deal with the family and help them through the grieving process and the loss of a loved one.” For Bob, the highest form of compliment is a thank you note from the grieving family. “I know I’ve done my job when I can help them through this difficult time by understanding and explaining how and why their loved one died.”
As if being a full-time pharmacist, country coroner, and volunteer firefighter isn’t enough, Bob fills in as a preacher once a month for the Mennonite church. His passion is also the Koshare Museum and preservation of the culture and art of the American Indians of the great Southwest.