Westport boys and girls — and their parents — knew Ted Lowry and his wife Alice as Coleytown Elementary School bus monitors.
What a shame they never heard his whole story.
Lowry — “Tiger” in his boxing days — was the only fighter to go 10 rounds twice with future heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano. Against Joe Louis, Lowry recalled, “I didn’t hit the floor, and I didn’t take a beating. He said I would go places.”
Lowry served in World War II with an all-black airborne unit. He fought for his country — and rode in the back of a US military bus, while German POWs sat in front.
A longtime resident of Norwalk, Lowry mentored hundreds of youngsters — in boxing, and in life. He was a successful businessman — he started his own construction company — and on his 80th birthday in 1999 he was honored by the city for his athletic and civic contributions.
Norwalk picked the right man.
He fought 144 times as a professional, and was knocked out just 3. He recounted that career in an autobiography he completed at 86, God’s in My Corner: A Portrait of an American Boxer.
Boxing historian Mike Silver called him “a boxing treasure, one of the last links to boxing’s great golden age of talent, activity and popularity.” Connecticut inducted him into its Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008.
Larry Johnson — one of his Lowry’s mentees, now CEO of Norwalk’s youth enrichment program Character Under Construction — said that Lowry turned around the lives of youngsters involved with drugs and alcohol.
“He always invited me to the gym no matter what was taking place in my life or what I thought of myself,” Johnson told Boston.com. “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.”
Boxing writer Robert Mladninich said: “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. (He said), ‘See, now I’m sitting in the front of the bus.”
Sure, it was a Westport school bus — not the US military. But to the end of his life, Ted Lowry continued doing good things for people, quietly making sure they were safe, and helping them grow up in whatever way he could.
“Tiger” Ted Lowry died last month, of heart failure. He was 90 years old.
He is buried in Westport’s Willowbrook Cemetery — just a mile or two, as the bus drives, from Coleytown Elementary School.