Jo Lower, of South Hadley, completed a long and purposeful life on February 18, 2018, dying peacefully in the comfort of her home and with her loving spouse and a dear friend at her side. Born in Bryn Mawr, PA on June 5, 1935 to George Graffley Lower and Emily Hallauer Lower, both teachers, Jo spent many of her childhood summers in Woods Hole, MA, where her parents were active with the Children’s Science School and the Marine Biological Laboratories. Her high-energy love of science, the ocean, and the mountains full of snow was a thread woven throughout her life-as a child exploring tidal pools with her father, as a sailing instructor on Martha’s Vineyard, as a much-loved science teacher at Northampton High School for 32 years, as an expert skier and instructor and as a person who dove with abandon into life.
An accomplished athlete in many sports, Jo earned four varsity letters in each year of secondary school at Westtown School, PA and at Bucknell University, where Jo earned her BS in Biology (’57) and was a member of Kappa Delta sorority. Jo moved to Northampton, MA in 1960 to teach science at the High School and she began to volunteer on Ski Patrol at Berkshire Snow Basin. She became the first female elected to the National Ski Patrol Board, and later became a ski instructor at Mt. Tom, teaching skiing to young children and adults for two decades. Jo’s shoes will still be found at Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington, where she left them before skiing down decades ago. Her many students will still remember her challenging them to learn, leaping onto a chair to make a point, and telling them that she didn’t care if they wore only long underwear to school as long as they would come and learn and be themselves.
After retiring from teaching at Northampton High School, Jo earned the nick-name “St. Jo” due to her love of animals. A true dog-whisperer, she would drive her Jeep throughout the Pioneer Valley to pick up 8 or more dogs of all sizes and breeds and then walk them on woodland trails, fully in control via only verbal commands. In the last year, as her health diminished, she delighted in looking out the window, watching Cardinals, Hairy Woodpeckers, Goldfinches, and other birds at the feeder in the backyard, with a dog pressed by her side.
Jo is survived by her devoted spouse of 25 years, Joanna Brown, and a loving extended family: her brother George Lower and his spouse, Nancy Lower, her sister-in-law Susan Bell, her nieces and nephews (and spouses) who always thought of her as the “cool” Aunt: Cheryl Lower, George Bell (Cedrine), Charla Lower, Gordon Bell (Bethany White), Emily Lower, Cindy Weber, Doug Bell (Joan Marie), and Elizabeth Lavenue (Myra), and grand-nieces and nephews: Erin Coonahan, Anastasia White, Alison Bell, Tolson Bell, Catherine Bell, Charlotte Bell, Owen Coonahan, Aria Lavenue, Lucie Bell, Emilie Bell, Mitchell Coonahan, Shea Bell, Guillaume Bell, Claire Lavenue, and Elena Bell.
She is also survived by her close friends Georganne Greene and Andrea Kandel and their daughter, Annie Kandel, Dr. Nora Wilcox, Janey Gordon, Andrea Reber, Professor Emeritus and the Reverend Gloria G. Lomax, Almaneta Lee, Bob and Dorothy Green, Ted and Nancy Kurtz, Jack and Priscilla Finn, Deedie Steele, Leslie Dubinsky and Carol Ranzel-Wallace, Michael Sugerman, Jampa Latso, Emmanuel Morales, and Maiko Otake Nauroth. Jo was pre-deceased by her sister, Jeanne Bell, and her brother-in-law, Guy Bell.
Jo was grateful to have belonged to the Unitarian Society of Northampton for nearly 30 years. It was in that supportive community where she met her spouse, Joanna, and in which their Ceremony of Union was held and witnessed by 130 relatives and friends in 1996. In 2004, when same-gender marriage became legal in Massachusetts, they immediately applied for and received their marriage license, 12 years after they had made their life-commitment to each other.
Friends, neighbors, former colleagues and students, and others who knew and loved Jo are invited to attend a non-denominational Celebration of Life service on Saturday, June 9 at 11 a.m. at the Unitarian Society of Northampton, MA, 220 Main Street, to be followed by a reception.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Northampton Education Foundation (to support Northampton Public Schools) https:northamptoneducation.org or the Dakin Humane Society, https:dakinhumane.org or Baystate Hospice https://www.baystatehealth.org/giving (then select Baystate Home Health-Hospice).