BRANDON — Jacob Fowler met his wife five years ago, when he was a teenager. They were each other's first loves.
They would have celebrated their first wedding anniversary later this month. But on June 27, Mr. Fowler died in a snorkeling accident. He was 22 years old.
Mr. Fowler was a member of Bell Shoals Baptist Church for his entire life. He was a talented musician, the kind who could pick up any instrument and master it almost instantly. He was a member of the church's worship band.
Every summer since he was a boy, he spent a week at a church-sponsored youth camp in Alachua County, first as a camper and more recently as a counselor.
"We actually met at the camp," said his wife, Diana Fowler, also a lifelong Bell Shoals' member. "I knew who he was from church. He was in the spotlight because of his music. But I didn't really know him until five years ago. He was actually my first boyfriend."
It was at that same camp where Mr. Fowler's life ended. He was swimming in a spring, and apparently was trying to reach the bottom, about 50 feet down.
"He had been doing that all day," said his longtime friend Charlie Jackson, who was nearby. "He was an accomplished scuba diver. I noticed he hadn't come up in a few minutes, and I dove in. Apparently, he had blacked out."
Mr. Fowler's life revolved around his faith and his marriage, friends said, and he studied the Bible every day. He had varied interests and was devoted to his academic career. He graduated from the University of South Florida in three years and was studying to become an osteopathic physician.
"He was the most diligent person I ever met," his wife said. "But he was very modest. He could play any instrument, and he was probably the youngest person in his class in medical school. But he would never brag about it."
He was basically a quiet man but still had the kind of personality that drew people.
"He was smart, he was funny and he was caring," Jackson said. "Before he spoke, he would try to make sure that what he was going to say would be beneficial. He would always think about the consequences of his actions."
Jackson performed with Mr. Fowler in bands at Bell Shoals. He was in awe of his friend's talent, but he said that Mr. Fowler himself downplayed his accomplishments.
"He could play sax, guitar, piano, bass, just about any instrument he wanted," Jackson said. "But if you met him in church or on the street, you'd never know he was a genius."
It wasn't false modesty, Diana Fowler said. Her husband honestly didn't think he was ultimately responsible for his talent, his intelligence or his accomplishments.
"He would give all the credit to God," she said. "That's just the way he was."
Besides his wife, Mr. Fowler is survived by his father, Bill, his mother, Patty, and his brothers Zachary and Matthew.
Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at [email protected] com.