Mr. Lowry, who took youths off the streets of Norwalk, Conn., and into the ring as a mentor and trainer through the Police Athletic League and received numerous honors for his community service and a boxing career that encompassed the years 1939-1955, died of heart failure June 14 at Norwalk Hospital. The longtime Norwalk resident was 90.
"I considered him to be a boxing treasure, one of the last links to boxing's great golden age of talent, activity and popularity,’’ said boxing historian Mike Silver, who interviewed Mr. Lowry five years ago for the book, "The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science." "One of his best performances was in 1952 in St. Paul against light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim in a non-title bout and Ted was robbed of a decision he clearly deserved to win. Maxim's next fight was against the great Sugar Ray Robinson. There was no way Ted was going to get the decision."
A New England light heavyweight and heavyweight champion who fought out of New Bedford in the early 1940's, Mr. Lowry established the High-Low Forms and Foundations construction company after his retirement from boxing. Until last year, along with his wife of 46 years, Alice (Johnson), he was a bus monitor for the Colytown Elementary School in Westport, Conn.
"My dad never quit on anything in his life and whatever he did, he did it well," said Mr. Lowry’s son, Wayne, of Waterbury, Conn. "He enjoyed people, especially the youths and he was very outgoing, the kind of person who could just light up a room."
A 2008 inductee to the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame, Mr. Lowry was honored on his 80th birthday on "Ted Lowry Day," in Norwalk, followed by a testimonial dinner.
"Ted taught a lot of us to become boxers, some of whom were in the streets drinking, drugging, and getting into trouble," recalled Larry Johnson, a former welterweight fighter who started in Mr. Lowry’s boxing program in 1979 and is now CEO of the Norwalk-based Character Under Construction that also puts young people on the right track. "He always invited me to the gym no matter what was taking place in my life or what I thought of myself. He always accepted me and told me I was a champion.
"Tiger Ted said that although he was never a world champion the fact he did the best he could made him a champion in life. His autobiography was his legacy and his mission – to plant a seed in young men that they should never give up."
His wife said she was never more proud of Mr. Lowry than on the occasion of his 80th birthday, Oct. 27, 1999.
"I sat at the head table with him at the Holiday Inn in Stamford and I could see how much he appreciated the honor and that people loved and adored him,'' she said.
Robert Mladinich, a former prizefighter who has written for Ring Magazine and thesweetscience.com website, said that Mr. Lowry started to believe in himself as a fighter after going up against the great Heavyweight champion Joe Louis while serving with the Army in Louisiana.
"I was only 23 years old, but I didn’t hit the floor and I didn’t take a beating," Mr. Lowry told Mladnich. "Afterward, Joe paid me some compliments and told me I had a good future. He said I would go places. From then on, I never had fear in the ring again."
Those places included Dallas, St. Paul, Cleveland, Spokane, Boise, Walla Walla, Baltimore, Toronto and Providence, where he fought Marciano for the first time in 1949 at the Rhode Island Auditorium.
Mr. Lowry lost the decision, but according to newspaper accounts of the bout, many in the crowd and some in press row felt he should have won. Marciano and Mr. Lowry fought again in 1950 and Marciano dominated, but couldn’t knock Mr. Lowry out. Marciano went on to win all of his 49 fights, 43 by knockout – but he could never KO Mr. Lowry.
"I think Lowry would have gone the distance if we had fought a hundred times," Marciano later stated. "I could never get used to his style of fighting."
Marciano’s brother, Peter, said Mr. Lowry had "tremendous ring generalship and knew the science of the sport. Rocky had great respect for him and when you consider Rocky’s record, what Ted did against him was remarkable."
Mr. Lowry, who had 67 wins, 67 losses and ten draws (including a stellar performance in a loss to Light Heavyweight great Archie Moore), grew up in New Haven, Conn. and moved to Portland, Me. at age 13. A four-sport athlete at Portland High, he lived with other fledgling fighters in New Bedford, then went back to New Haven after military service – which included fighting fires in the Pacific Northwest started by Japanese incendiary balloons.
"Ted was willing to go anywhere and fight anybody on short notice for short pay to support his family," said Mladinich. "Although he never got the break that would put him in the big time, he was not a bitter man, in fact, he was the eternal optimist. I did a 10-minute documentary with him about a year and a half ago and he did say to me, 'See, now I’m sitting in front of the [school] bus,' a reference to what happened to him during the war.''
Sharon Napolitano, who wrote the introduction to Mr. Lowry’s book, said he was "full of wonderful stories and wanted to share them with the world. When he approached me about typing his memoir in 1996, I knew nothing of his past. I soon learned how remarkable and inspirational this man was. Ted was an inspiration to many. Those who knew him will always remember him as a true gentleman and a winner in and out of the ring.''
In addition to his wife, Alice, and son, Wayne, Mr. Lowry leaves three other sons, T. Kevin of Alexandria, Va., Charles Roy of Hayward, Calif., and Wayne Miggins of Fort Washington, Md.; and his first wife, Marjorie Fowler of New Haven. Another son, Kenneth, of New Haven, who designed the art work for his father’s book, died last year.
A funeral service has been held for Mr. Lowry. Burial was at Willowbrook Cemetery in Westport, Conn.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more