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William Houston “Bill” Lowry died at his home in Belmont, Massachusetts on September 30 at age 97. He had been in good health for a man of his years and retained a clear and curious mind.
Before moving to Belmont in 1990, Mr. Lowry lived in Norman, Oklahoma where he arrived in 1958 to establish a multi-country library system under a pilot program funded by a federal grant disbursed by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. At the same time he worked to write and pass an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution which permitted a majority of county voters to approve a special annual recurring ad valorem tax dedicated to funding public libraries. The Pioneer Library System established under the pilot program achieved permanent status when, in 1960, McClain County became the first Oklahoma county to approve the ad valorem millage, followed by Cleveland County in 1961 and later by Pottawatomie County. Until his retirement from directing the Pioneer Library System and the Norman Public Library in 1987, Mr. Lowry was dedicated to building libraries, expanding services throughout the counties and staying abreast of new library technologies. He followed with interest the work of successor directors and their staffs who shared his mission.
Mr. Lowry was born on August 27, 1921 to Bernard F. and Jean (Shafer) Lowry in Cleveland, Ohio where he spent his early youth and where he recalled that horse-drawn wagons were a common sight and Civil War veterans still joined Memorial Day parades. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 where he served in the 168th Field Artillery Battalion in New Guinea and Luzon until his discharge as a private first class in 1945. He received a B.A. from the University of Michigan where he met his wife Anne. He then continued studies at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, receiving a master’s degree in library science.
Mr. Lowry is survived by his daughter Margaret and her husband Bradley Steele of Winchester, Massachusetts, his son Paul of Belmont and grandchildren Peter Steele and Laura Steele. His wife Anne died in 2004 and another son John, in 2007.
After retirement Mr. Lowry enjoyed travelling with his wife in Europe and also to Russia, China and Japan. He especially enjoyed attending performances of the Metropolitan Opera. Five time a year for more than 15 years he would arrive in New York City by train at Grand Central Station mid-day on a Friday, obtain his room key at the Williams Club and then have lunch and an afternoon relaxing at the Morgan Library. In addition to the opera, he would attend several Broadway shows before returning to Boston by train Sunday evening. His friendly, outgoing nature made friends out of strangers sitting in an adjacent seat. He also held season tickets to the Boston Symphony Orchestra where, in his later years, he would on occasion take a short nap when the lights dimmed. He served as Treasurer for the Friends of the Belmont Library where he helped run annual book sales. He enjoyed reading and later talking books as well as following the Boston sports teams and watching televised University of Oklahoma football and basketball games. He enjoyed many friends over the years in Belmont as well as an occasional visit or call from a Norman friend. He was happy that his family was near to him.
He was a member of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Belmont where his memorial service was held on October 20. He was interred the same day along-side his wife and son in the Belmont Cemetery.