Where are They Now? ~ Cary Lowe, ‘Becoming American’~ A New Series

Did you ever wonder what happens when people leave Bedford?  We’ve recently had someone from here in line for a cabinet post.  We also have a famous hockey sportswriter who hails from Bedford.  We recently had a request from a reader about something he saw on Facebook referring to an author’s time in Bedford.

Jim Morris, owner of Peppers Grille here in town and also a BHS graduate, thought it might be a fun series to ask, “where are they now?”

We agree, but we’re going to need your help.  You need to let us know what you know about people who have left our shores and have done something of note.

Cary Lowe, Becoming American

Cary Lowe

Becoming American is former Bedford resident Cary Lowe’s compelling story of his search for his family’s roots in Europe and the account of his life growing up in America. Born in Austria while his father was serving with military intelligence at U.S. Army bases, Lowe is now a California writer, lawyer, and activist but he has fond memories of his high school days in Bedford.

Local readers will find his chapters on coming to town in 1961 and moving into a new home on Wildwood Drive especially interesting.  Cary Lowe graduated from Bedford High school in 1966 and his younger brother, the late Dean Lowe, was a member of the class of 1969.  Cary recounts tales of his classes with one of the high school’s most revered teachers, the late Mrs. Kahn. And there are amusing memories of another BHS favorite, “Miss [Betty] Dowling,” the high school librarian. Lowe was something of a rebel at BHS who relished challenging certain restrictive policies. Classmates remember him for the whale tooth amulet he wore, which caused considerable angst to high school authorities when dress codes were more stringent than now.

Other Bedford chapters recall his love for cross country running, ski trips with friends  (Gary, Mike, and Tom are mentioned), and the heady excitement of hearing folk music in spots like Club 47 in Harvard Square, in the 1960s. In the process of “becoming American,” Cary had a strong desire to be a naval officer but his father, recognizing his rebellious streak, urged against Annapolis. So when he was accepted at USC, Cary moved to Los Angeles in 1966 where he said his life “took on a new trajectory.” He still had aspirations to be a naval officer, so joined NROTC and upon graduation was commissioned as a Navy lieutenant. Although he served a tour of duty at sea, Lowe realized his opposition to the Vietnam war was growing stronger so he applied for and received a discharge from the Navy.  His next move was to law school and law became his lifetime career.

The Search for Family Roots

Lowe writes in his first chapter “Growing up in postwar Austria, my greatest hope was someday to become an American. A real American, like the khaki-clad soldiers occupying the country or the cowboys in the westerns at the local cinema…. What I didn’t realize then was that becoming American would cut me off from my roots. Many years later, after my parents and my brother had died, I resolved to restore that connection.”

And so, in 1997 with his nine-year-old daughter Coralea in tow, Cary journeyed to Czechoslovakia in hopes of finding the graves of his paternal great grandparents in a long-closed Jewish cemetery.  His daughter had heard many stories from her grandmother, Valerie, about the terrible war years. Stories, incidentally, that Cary himself had not heard before. As was typical of many Holocaust survivors and emigrants, neither Valerie nor Ernest had talked much about those years, even to their sons.

Ernest Lowe escaped from Vienna just before the war broke out, was later drafted into the Army, and served with Gen. George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge. Because of his European background and language fluency, he was recruited for military intelligence at US army bases in Germany and Austria, which is why the sons were born in Europe. Valerie had survived by hiding out in a bakery; she later joined partisans fighting the

Standing by the crypt of my ancestor, Rabbi Judah Loewe in the Prague Jewish cemetery. Photo from the Cary Lowe Writer Blog

 Nazis before eventually making her way to America. With her granddaughter, she felt comfortable telling the story of her war experiences. 

When Cary and Coralea finally reached the Jewish cemetery in a small village outside Prague, the gates were locked.  Undaunted, Cary, with the help of his Czech guide, scaled the wall and eventually located the black granite marker with the names of Julie Lowyova Wolenic and Samuel Lowy (as the family name was written), with their death dates of 1925 and 1932.  As Cary writes, “This small place held the history of the Jewish community of that region for centuries back….The Nazis virtually erased the area’s Jewish community, but missed this place.”

Lowe and his daughter also visited two small towns in Slovakia where Valerie spent the wartime years.

There is much more of interest in Lowe’s book.  He has had a long career as an activist, working closely with California political figures like former Governor Jerry Brown. As a real estate lawyer, he advocated for new funding for housing development, taught at several universities and estimates “he had helped develop at least 25,000 homes and innumerable shopping centers, schools and parks and in some cases, entire new communities.”  The American dream fulfilled.

Writer’s Note: This writer knew Dean Lowe well (although not Cary) during his high school years and he spent many hours in our home, as a friend of my older son.  Valerie Lowe was an accomplished dressmaker and made clothing for many Cambridge luminaries, including the wife of the architect Walter Gropius.  She also gave sewing instruction, which I took advantage of, but in all our association she never once alluded to any of her harrowing wartime experiences. The family eventually moved to California after the two sons were in college. 

The book is available on Amazon.


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