John Lowery, aka Big Daddy, was a mountain of a man. Eyes twinkling behind Coke-bottle spectacles, he loomed large as one of Lawrence County’s more revered educators.
Big John was a remarkable raconteur, a skilled storyteller, with a dry wit and keen sense of humor.
As a former principal with North Lawrence Community Schools, he was renowned for cultivating a rapport with thousands of children who came to adore him.
“Big John was a classic character,” recalled Barry Webster, now residing in the Evansville area. “He was a leader by example, always willing to donate his time and talent. He was engaging to everyone he met.”
Webster said many of his peers remember John as Bedford North Lawrence High School’s public address announcer at basketball games.
“He was awesome,” he recalled. “John was blessed with a deep, bellowing voice.”
WBIW’s Myron Rainey concurred.
“John’s voice was booming,” he remembered. “He hosted several postgame programs on WBIW’s Fifth Quarter and would chat about the history of Lawrence County basketball. Those shows on ‘days gone by’ drew a lot of interest.”
Phil Tatom, a valued volunteer at Parkview for decades, noted children were not intimidated by Lowery’s formidable physical stature.
“He was a big man, but so gentle,” he explained. “John was great with children.”
Longtime friend Dave Torphy described Lowery as the consummate gentle giant.
“He loved kids, and they loved him,” he explained. “He earned a lot of praise for his ability to relate to children.”
Former Parkview Intermediate Principal Phil Deckard said Big John had a unique knack for making those around him smile.
“That guy was so much fun,” he said. “He loved to make people laugh. He made my job and life so much more enjoyable. Kids would get one look at John and be in awe of the guy. To them, he was a big teddy bear, someone they could trust.”
Lowery preferred heartfelt hugs to disciplinary paddlings. During an interview with former Times-Mail reporter Mary Johnson, he shared his educational philosophy.
“It is important for children to come out of school able to read and write,” he insisted. “Those skills are very important. But the most important thing I think a child can learn is the ability to get along with others through love. The only way you can learn that is through love, and you have to be on the receiving end of love to learn love. You have to experience love before you can really give it back.”
The city’s municipal pool, where children splash and frolic each summer, was named in his honor.
Lowery died of cancer in 1986 at the age of 46.
“We were so blessed to have such outstanding role models growing up,” Webster said. “Big John left us way too early.
“It’s weird how people touch your lives, make you a better person, better parent, better co-worker ... just better. You don’t realize it at the time, but Big John was definitely one of those people.”
Jeff Callahan, director of athletics at Bedford North Lawrence High School, said Big John was an excellent mentor for so many youngsters at the Thornton Memorial Boys Club and within the school system.
Callahan said he can still hear Lowery’s booming voice echoing in the fieldhouse.
”And starting at guard, a senior, Larry Ma-gruuuuu-der!
A good man. A good friend. And, such a positive presence continuing to resonate within the community he held so dear.
See you soon, Big Daddy. Save us a plate of king crab legs.
Contact Bob Bridge at 812-276-9646 or email@example.com.