Even when he was moving slowly wih the aid of a walker, Fletcher Lowry could zip past you with quick wit.
Lowry, the winningest baseball coach in University of Central Arkansas history and head of the physical education department for 17 years, died Sunday. His funeral will be at 11 a.m Thursday at First United Methodist Church in Conway and I suggest you come early.
During my three decades of covering sports in Conway, I don’t know of anyone more beloved than Fletcher Lowry. His former players loved him but so did his legion of friends, former students, co-workers and citizens of Conway. He was a true gentleman, whose crusty exterior and competitive nature masked a soft heart and delightful, insightful nature.
I remember many a Bearbacker luncheon in which Lowry, always accompanied by his wife, Jo Nell, would come early and take their seats at a table among longtime fans. He would brace his walker against a pillar. A laugh or two would soon follow. He would then listen intently to a coach’s report. When it came time for questions, he would often be the first to raise his hand, usually with a twinkle in his eye.
And the UCA coach, whoever in whatever sport, grimaced. The coaches knew what was coming. There would be a sly comment about the game, a hilarious story or a pointed question/comment, usually about officiating. That led to a interesting oral dance step by the coach, who was not allowed to comment about officiating. Lowry knew it. This was part of the fun. He fired his bullet and disarmed a coach all in one motion.
But this is one of the things I loved about Fletcher Lowry. Even when he aimed his arrows, they contained no poison. He could score a direct hit and there would be no lasting wounds, just a tickle.
As a coach that subtle wit flowed through to his players.
Dennis Fulmer, a former track star and member of the UCA Sports Hall of Fame, noted when coach Lowry gave him a tour of campus. “He showed me a building he said I might not be familiar with,” said Fulmer. ‘This is the library.’” he said he told him.
Another time, Fulmer said he complained to Lowry about an infected toe. Lowry told him, “It can’t kill you. It’s four feet away from your heart, and if you’re looking for sympathy, you can find it in the dictionary.”
When he was inducted into the UCA Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, Lowry walked to the podium using a cane, then said with his customary sly smile, “I don’t have to use a cane, but the problem is, if I don’t, I fall.”
When he and his family were recognized recently with a service award at the Bear Nation celebration, Lowry could not attend because of health reasons. But Jo Nell, his wife of 62 years, constant companion and tireless caregiver, talked eloquently in his place and knowing Fletcher well, said, “If he were here, the first thing he would do would be to crack a joke.”
When Lowry would begin to speak, you would smile. When he finished, you would be laughing.
Come to think of it, in between, as you pondered an interesting insight, there would be a belly laugh or two.
Miss him already.
It’s been a tough weekend for loyal UCA supporters.
Bill Bryant, who helped operate the scoreboard at Estes Stadium and Conway High’s John McConnell Stadium for several years, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack last week.
His loyalty to UCA was unquestioned.
At his funeral last week, Bryant was buried wearing a UCA purple polo shirt and the UCA fight song was played as part of the memorial.
Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com