Lehigh Valley

Marlene 'Linny' Fowler, local philanthropist, dies

Philanthropist Linny Fowler dead at 73

The woman behind some of the Lehigh Valley's most famous landmarks has died. Philanthropist Marlene "Linny" Fowler died in her sleep Monday morning at age 73, according to family friends.

If you've ever watched The Freddy Awards here on WFMZ, caught a show at Bethlehem SteelStacks, or checked out emerging artists at the Banana Factory, you have seen the legacy of Linny Fowler.

"Without Linny, and her vision and her generosity, this building wouldn't be here," said Kassie Hilgert, vice president of marketing for Artsquest, the non-profit that runs SteelStacks and Banana Factory.

But away from the limelight, Fowler felt most at home in her art studio.

"She taught classes here," said Hilgert. "She got involved with kids."

A love of kids is why Fowler supported the Freddys at Easton's historic State Theatre.

"She loved high school kids, she loved seeing live performance," said State Theatre CEO Shelly Brown. "She loved the fact that they got to be on such a grand stage."

One of those Fowler helped was Bethlehem School Board member Basilio Bonilla.

"Always willing to help those in need," he said. "She helped me when it came to attending Moravian College. She helped fund when my parents couldn't fund my tuition."

Fowler made her fortune from UPS; her father once ran the company. Her death was unexpected, although friends said she suffered from lung and heart problems.

"This was a shock to all of us," said Hilgert.

Bonilla added: "We knew she was ill, and we knew this day would come, but I don't think anyone ever expected it this soon."

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

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