Etheen Lowry Obituary, Death – Etheen Lowry, a seasoned Catholic educator and political leader, passed away at the age of 86. When their mother passed away in 1942 due to a brain tumor, Etheen, who was born in 1936, was six and Barbara, 14, was fourteen. Having been sent to boarding school at Notre Dame Convent at the age of 8, she graduated at 16 and enrolled at the Johannesburg College of Education at the age of 17 in 1953. She completed with her teaching degree the following year, met Donovan Lowry, and they were married in Cape Town at age 21. In the seven years before 1964, they gave birth to four kids. She joined the Liberal Party and took part in the Black Sash demonstrations with Donovan. After relocating to Johannesburg, the Security Police conducted raids on their Norwood home in 1962 and 1964. These raids weren’t the last, since they also occurred in the 1980s. Each of the aforementioned dates played a significant role in both Etheen’s early development and later life.
Her enthusiasm for family, which had always come first in her life, was spurred by the devastating early death of her mother. Etheen always gave credit to the kind Sisters and atmosphere of Notre Dame Convent for her steadfast Catholic faith, scholastic prowess, and independence of thought. She got involved in SCS and NCFS at the Johannesburg College of Education, the local and national Catholic student organizations that helped shape the spirituality and social conscience of so many young activists in the 1950s. The focus of her life quickly shifted to her young children. “She was a tremendously dedicated and supportive mother,” said her daughter Robyn. She nevertheless managed to get a BA through UNISA in the 1960s despite this. After a brief two-year exploratory stay in England, Etheen returned to South Africa and started working full-time as a teacher in government schools. But her absence only served to reaffirm her and Donovan’s determination to bring about fundamental change at home. First at Hillcrest Primary School, then as Head of English at Athlone Girls High School. Many would consider her lengthy and devoted service as a teacher in the public school system to be her greatest contribution to South African society.
Political introduction to Black Consciousness militants like Drake Koka and Thomas Manthata came from engagement in CARE, a mostly lay organization of Johannesburg Catholic activists, in the 1970s. This contributed to strengthening the social justice education she had already received; subsequently, she would get active in the End Conscription Campaign, for which the dictatorship issued a ban. Donovan and Etheen were “an outstanding and inspiring Catholic couple passionately committed to the cause of social justice under apartheid South Africa,” according to Sydney Duval, a fellow member of CARE. Tennis, bridge, dancing, dinner parties with friends and relatives, and other activities characterized Etheen and Donovan’s active social life. Etheen had previously participated in Southern Transvaal Under-21 hockey, while Donovan preferred walking and climbing. Obviously, it wasn’t all politics or education. Her close relationships with Jenny Tallack and Frankie Connell continue to this day. It was not going to be easy on the health front in later life; from severe osteoarthritis to hip (and other) replacements to even having rectal cancer removed at 80. All of this was endured with amazing strength.
She established herself as the undisputed matriarch of her huge family, which was distributed around the Commonwealth. The families of Shirley and Jenny’s daughters opted to leave South Africa in the late 1990s. Emigration is usually challenging and occasionally disruptive. At the end of an amazing life, Etheen’s daughter Robyn carried a large portion of the family burden of seeing her through the severe reality of vascular dementia with the help of her devoted professional caregiver Christina van Rooyen. On All Saints Day, Etheen passed away.