Janesville's Zac Fowler has a good time so others can enjoy life, too
Family: Two daughters, Kayla Fowler, 21, Janesville; Karlee Fowler, 15, at home.
Hobbies: The Green Bay Packers and traveling
Favorite musician: Jimmy Buffett
Biggest influences: His late wife, Tammy Fowler, and Steve Bielefeldt, who taught leadership development at Blackhawk Technical College.
Past volunteerism: Janesville Youth Sports Complex board member, coach of many youth sports.
Current volunteerism: Organizer and host of an annual community benefit party to help others and donating to youth sports fundraisers
Occupation: Owner and operator of Z Travel Tours, a business he started after losing his job at General Motors; a full-time marketing student at Blackhawk Technical College, and a referee of youth sports.
JANESVILLE The day Zac Fowler's wife died, he got to slow dance with her.
"Forty-five minutes later, she was dead," he said.
Tammy Fowler loved to dance, Zac said.
"There was a band playing in Milton. I didn't want to go," he said.
But he did, and they had a good time.
The deadly car crash was almost five years ago.
Since losing his mate of 15 years and the love of his life, Zac has come to know just how precious life is.
"I won't slow down. I just appreciate life, and I don't like to waste it," he said.
The loss is also what keeps Zac motivated—primarily to help others.
"I give now for me," he said. "I used to in her memory. Now, I do it for both of us."
For years, Zac and Tammy hosted Packers parties in their Janesville home. After she died, he continued the parties, but in a public venue and in a bigger way to help others.
In 2008, the $1,700 raised at a party went toward a new softball field at the Youth Sports Complex on Wuthering Hills Drive. In 2009, the party raised more than $5,000 for a woman who suffered a stroke while on the operating table during aneurysm surgery. And in 2010, more than $600 and 327 pounds of food went to ECHO, a nonprofit, community-sponsored charity that serves low-income people in the Janesville area.
Zac hasn't decided who or what will benefit from his annual party this year.
"There are so many needs," he said.
"It is so great to see someone so involved with helping others," Jennifer Nunn, a family friend, said of Zac.
"Zac has been an inspiration to lots of people," she said.
He is definitely no stranger to overcoming loss. Two years after losing his wife, he lost his job of 13 years at General Motors.
"He's just one of those guys that keep going. He was left with raising two beautiful girls and is doing a wonderful job, and he has now opened his own travel business," Nunn said.
Zac is passionate, fun and giving, and he said when you experience tragedy, you realize money is not the answer to life.
"It's about every day and waking up very appreciative of what you have," he said.
That explains why Zac does what he does for others.
"After the accident, my friends threw a benefit for me and the girls. Just that appreciation and knowing there are people to support you means so much," he said.
Overcoming loss also has made Zac stronger.
"I'm not afraid anymore. It makes you realize you can do anything," he said.
That's why Zac is going to finish his degree, run his business and do what he loves, which is helping people.
"I love and enjoy meeting people and am fortunate to have friends all over the world. I appreciate … having a second chance," he said.
He also has chosen to live life based on this simple philosophy: "I want to be happy and surrounded by family and friends. I couldn't say that 10 years ago."