George Lowery, the Cornell Chronicle’s managing editor, whose sharp pen, affable personality, spirited laugh and moving-things-along persona became the heart of the busy news organization, died Dec. 10 in Ithaca. He was 60 years old.
Lowery saw news value and sentence clarity as a mission. Scores of stories poured in weekly from all corners of Cornell’s campus. He handled them deftly, smoothing paragraphs, applying Associated Press style and omitting needless words to better engage readers.
Lowery was a straight-shooting editor who often offered unvarnished – and accurate – opinions, usually followed with a signature phrase, “But what do I know?”
This year, Lowery edited more than 900 stories, and in 2017, he polished more than 1,100, according to Cornell Chronicle statistics.
“We are a tight-knit family at the Chronicle, and George was our mentor, psychiatrist and friend as well as being a talented editor, writer and wise-cracker,” said Karen Walters, senior director of news, who worked with Lowery for 11 years. “Over these last couple of days, it is apparent that George touched many lives at Cornell, [among his neighbors] at Commonland and, in particular, at the dog park.”
Lowery could at times project a curmudgeonly façade, but his warm soul and always-open office door betrayed him. When colleagues walked in, Lowery stopped what he was doing and turned his attention to his visitor. He listened, showed compassion and offered encouraging words.
In addition to words, Lowery loved animals. In 2015, after mourning the loss of two dogs – a mixed breed named Iggy, short for Ignatius Loyola, and Leggs Lucille, a greyhound – he decided he was ready to care for another and approached a whippet adoption group in central New York.
“My greyhound, Leggs Lucille, whom I adopted after her track career when she was about 2 years old, lived to be 15 and died in February 2015,” he wrote to the adoption group. “I am just now ready for another dog.”
Lowery continued: “I make my dogs the center of my life, do lots and lots of hiking with her/him, and come home from work every day to give the dog a walk and a treat. I don’t accept invitations that don’t include my dog and miss having a dog so badly, it is killing me.”
That’s when Luna Marie – a whippet – entered his life. Lowery brought Luna to the Cornell Chronicle offices every day, where she slept quietly under his desk on a large bed while he edited stories.
Sometimes she would wander through the Chronicle offices in search of lunch leftovers, dragging her retractable leash. In the serenity of the office, Lowery would call out, “Luna!” and the affectionate pooch would happily trot back to his office, tail wagging. “You’re a beautiful girl,” he would say.
Lowery took Luna nearly daily to the off-leash Ithaca Dog Park, adjacent to the Allan H. Treman Marina on Cayuga Lake. With room to sprint, Luna could reach a top speed of 35 miles per hour.
Said longtime friend Anne Ju Manning, a former Cornell colleague: “He would throw the Chuckit! Ball, and she’d just run and run and run. He loved watching her run.”
George Patrick Lowery was born in Syracuse on Nov. 19, 1958, to John and Catherine Lowery. He graduated from Corcoran High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York College at Oswego in 1981. He did graduate coursework in magazine journalism/film production at Syracuse University. Before he worked at Cornell, he worked at advertising agencies in Syracuse and he was an editor at Le Moyne College.
Lowery began working for Cornell in 1995, serving as the editor of Communiqué magazine in Alumni Affairs and Development. From there, he became the projects manager in Humanities Communications, and went on to be a writer and editor at the Cornell Chronicle in 2007. He was named managing editor of the Chronicle in 2012.
Lowery is survived by his sister, Suzanne (Bob) Pray of Camillus, New York; brother, John (Irene) Lowery of Liverpool, New York; nephews, Bradley (Katie) Pray of Baldwinsville and Maj. Adam (Shelly) Pray of Colorado Springs, Colorado. His parents predeceased him.
Relatives and friends can call Tuesday, Dec. 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Buranich Funeral Home, 5431 W. Genesee Street, Camillus, New York.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the SPCA of Tompkins County.