Robert Newton Lowry
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February 25, 1919 - June 13, 2014Robert Newton Lowry passed away as he lived his life: quietly, at peace, and surrounded by his loving family. Until his brief illness, he was witty, vibrant, and physically active. In response to anyone's inquiry, he said, "Every day is a good day".
Born in Washington D.C., Robert was the child of Henry Newton Lowry and Grace Gillette Okie LeFevre. The values of their families influenced the man that Robert was to become: compassionate, intellectually curious, self-effacing, generous, and dedicated to his family and country.
Grace, an American, and Newton, an Englishman, became deaf as children. As a result, Robert was proficient in lip reading and sign language, and he had an appreciation for silence.
He shared his parents' sense of adventure, and by the age of sixteen, he made sixteen transatlantic crossings by steamship. On a voyage in 1932, his father became ill and died before reaching Southampton, England, and Robert completed the journey alone. In 1921, his family went on a 5,000 mile cross-country trip on the new trans-continental highway system, and his job was to listen for trains. At fifteen, he drove his mother from Washington, D.C. to Chicago for the World's Fair.
In England, the family lived in Datchet, near Windsor, where Robert enjoyed the hobby of "train spotting".
In 1907, the Lowry's established the tradition of an annual camping trip to the Gwendreath Valley on the Cornish coast. Robert went there with his family as a child and, in 2007, he returned for a reunion and Centenary Celebration.
Robert's early schooling took place on both sides of the Atlantic but, after his father's early death, Robert charted his own life course, melding military traditions with Christian values. The legacy of his grandfathers, William Thompson Okie, M.D., an American Civil War surgeon, and the Rev. Edward Pearce Lowry, an English military chaplain, prolific writer, and Wesleyan minister, played significant roles in his development.
At fifteen, he enrolled in The Manlius School, a military boarding school in upstate New York. Robert became a proficient writer and readily adopted the school's motto, "Manners Maketh the Man". Personal discipline, developed through the ROTC program, became a well-recognized trait and, upon graduating, he received an Army commission.
Robert attended Princeton University, graduating with honors in Political Science, receiving a commission as 2nd Lt in the US Army. As the honor graduate in Military Science from the Princeton ROTC program, Robert was also appointed a 2ndLt in the Marine Corps Reserve. For a brief time, Robert held the title in both branches, eventually resigning from the Army to pursue his career in the US Marine Corps Reserve.
Robert served with the 3rd Marine Division in the Asia-Pacific Theater, from 1943 to 1945. He was an artillery officer during the invasions of Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. In 1945, he was the commanding officer of a Marine Guard Company at Norfolk, VA. He was shortly deployed to Germany, to take command as security officer of the USMC Detachment of the USS Europa. He was released from active duty in 1946, as a Captain, and resigned from the USMCR as a Major in 1959.
Robert was a voracious reader and lifetime student of military history. As co-editor of the book "Princeton Class of 1942 During World War II, the Individual Stories", he enjoyed doing research for classmates about the context in which they served. When visiting military cemeteries, and reminiscing about their varied fates, he often asked, "Why they and not I?"
It was also during the war that Robert met Mary Dudley, a nurse in the US Navy Nurse Corps and his perfect soul mate. She graduated from nursing school in Idaho and enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor. Mary was sent to New Zealand to be in charge of numerous hospitals. In 1943, Mary and Robert met there on a blind date. They married in 1946, in Charlottesville, VA, and were forever referred to as the "South Pacific couple".Mary died in 2005 before their 60th anniversary.
In 1946, Robert enrolled in the law school of the University of Virginia, completing his degree in two years. Known as a wordsmith, he referred to his classmate, Emmett Gatewood, as a "ferroequinologist", derived from Latin, meaning "a student of the iron horse". It is now an accepted term for a "rail fan or enthusiast". Robert also loved puns and engaging in repartee.
As an attorney, Robert practiced before the Interstate Commerce Commission, served as counsel for the Southern Railway System, and was a Partner in the law firm of Turney, Rives and Turney in Washington, D.C. In 1953, Robert joined the firm of Brobeck, Phleger and Harrison in San Francisco. He retired in 1989 as Senior Partner, a respected public utilities and corporate attorney, representing banks, hospitals, and large corporations.
Robert was active in numerous, local community organizations: the Vestry and Board of Trustees of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church and Day School, San Mateo; The Episcopal Diocese of California, San Francisco; The Bishop's Ranch Conference and Retreat Center, Healdsburg; the Episcopal Homes Foundation Board; and both Mills Hospital and Mills-Peninsula Hospital Boards of Trustees. For over forty-five years, Robert and Mary hosted a Christmas luncheon for the Hillsborough Police Department.
Robert recently celebrated his 95th birthday, at his home in Modesto, with family and friends. The Marine Corps League presented him with an Award for Service, and his biography was read into the U.S. House of Representatives record.
He is survived by his children, Ann Lowry Perez and her husband, John, of Modesto, CA; Robert Dudley Lowry and his wife, Becky Jo, of Eugene, OR; grandchildren, Michael Champion of San Diego, CA and his fiancee, Serena Nelson of Ramona, CA; Samuel Lowry and his partner, Jason Collins, of Sarasota, FL; Lowry Brennan and her husband, Ian, of San Mateo, CA; Joe Lowry and his wife, Greta, of Bandon, OR; great-grandsons, Daniel Robert Brennan and William James Brennan of San Mateo, CA ; and numerous relatives in England. In addition to his parents and wife, Mary, Robert was also predeceased by his half-sister, Leonie.
The family is grateful to his devoted caregivers, "The Ladies", as he affectionately referred to them; his dedicated physician, R.J. Heck, M.D.; Community Hospice; Salas Brothers Funeral Chapel of Modesto; and to many friends for their kindness.
A funeral service and inurnment will take place Friday, June 27, 2014 at 10:30 AM, at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., San Francisco, CA.
In lieu of flowers, please contribute to a charity in Robert's memory.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from June 23 to June 24, 2014
Salas Brothers Funeral Chapel Inc
419 Scenic Dr Modesto, CA 95350