Allen Gene Lowery, who turned the wartime loss of an arm into a symbol of courage and service to his fellow man, died Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. He was 69. His death was from health complications after surgery to repair herniated discs that had partially paralyzed him in recent months. Mr. Lowery, born in Newport News on Sept. 25, 1947, was the son of the late Inez Woodall and John D. Lowery.
He spent many years in construction work, but it was his wartime service that shaped his life. He was a sergeant serving at a landing zone in Vietnam when a helicopter blade disintegrated and flew past, severing his left arm at the shoulder. After months of recovery, he returned home and was attending Christopher Newport College when he met Donna Holthoff. The two married and spent the next 46 years building a family that includes five children and eight grandchildren.
Mr. Lowery never let his disability — and he would never call it that — slow him down. He and Donna moved to Smithfield in 1985 and undertook construction of a home on Tormentor’s Lake. Mr. Lowery did much of the work himself, joking about what a challenge a wheelbarrow was.
Mr. Lowery was never heard to feel sorry for himself, but rather reached out to help others who had needs. Not many years after moving to Smithfield, he became one of the founders of Christian Outreach and from then on worked tirelessly replacing roofs for financially strapped families, building wheelchair ramps for the elderly and providing firewood to numerous people for the winter months.
He was a member of the Isle of Wight County School Board for six years and a longtime member of the Smithfield Kiwanis Club. He also served his children's schools' PTA for a remarkable 18 years. It was while serving as PTA president that Mr. Lowery undertook a project that delighted him and hundreds of county residents. He organized the sponsorship of a large traveling tent circus. The one-day circus came to town not once, but twice, due to Mr. Lowery’s efforts. During one of the shows, he proudly rode an elephant around the tent as the performance opened. He was a tireless volunteer with the Mission of Hope homeless shelter project, an active member and trustee of Christ Episcopal Church and a longtime member of Ducks Unlimited.
Mr. Lowery’s greatest pride, however, was in his family. He was a tireless booster of his children’s sports and until his death was a baby sitter of adoring grandchildren, who called him Papa Gene.
Mr. Lowery is survived by his wife, Donna, five children, daughters Jamie Walski (David), Kristin Ianni (Christian) and Amanda Einhorn (Rodney); sons Justin (Laurie) and Brandon (Beth); grandchildren Laurel, August, Tessa, Jack, Campbell, Evan, Paulie and Jessica; brother Butch (Donna) and sister Brenda.
A memorial service with a reception will be held at Christ Episcopal Church Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at 11am with the Rev. Connie W. Gilman.
The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Mr. Lowery’s memory to the Christian Outreach Program, 402 Grace St., Smithfield, VA 23431.