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Helen Mae Lowery's secret to staying young was walking — everywhere


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To understand Helen Mae Lowery’s secret to longevity, you got to hit the sidewalk.

For 97 years, Helen walked everywhere, her family said. She never owned a car and often eschewed public transportation, preferring to stroll.  

She also didn’t drink, prayed regularly and always offered a hand to neighbors when asked.

“She also took care of the needy,” said her grandson, Michael Lowery. “She would give to people that needed it, fix dinners for people. She did it all.”

Even though Helen had what seemed like boundless energy, it wasn’t enough to fight the coronavirus seeping into her lungs. Diagnosed with pneumonia and COVID, Helen died in late October after being released from the hospital without her family’s knowledge and found, a few days later, unconscious in her apartment. She finally succumbed to the disease at the hospital after two days on a ventilator.

Born in 1922 in Des Moines, the oldest in a family of six children, Helen lived most of her life in Davenport. She worked as a nanny, a housekeeper and a salesperson at Freeman-Glickman Furniture.

Even as old age began to slow her down in the last few years, Helen stayed busy. She sang in the Progressive Baptist Church choir, where she was the oldest vocalist. She was a member of the Order of Eastern Star and cooked at the Hiram Lodge for seniors.

But, mostly, she was the community’s “mom,” a real people-person who looked out for the neighborhood.

“All the kids loved her,” Michael said. “She was loving, caring, compassionate.”

“She was a pillar in our community.”

'She was the type of person that did something for everybody'

Helen would do anything for anybody, said Marilyn Cribbs, the nonagenarian’s former neighbor and best friend.

A few times, Helen met Marilyn’s grandkids at the bus stop downtown, and took them to the five-and-dime store, where she bought them “all kinds of stuff.”

She was like a second grandmother to all of them, Marilyn said.

“When she died, it just broke them all up because she was that type of person that did something for everybody,” she said.

“She’s really going to be missed by a lot of people.”

This story is part of the Iowa Mourns series, a collection of remembrances about Iowans who lost their lives to COVID-19. If you've lost a loved one to COVID-19 in Iowa, let us know by filling out this form or emailing Iowa Columnist Courtney Crowder at ccrowder@dmreg.com.  

Iowans lost to COVID-19

The following deaths from COVID-19 were added in the past week to our list of more than 600 Iowans who have died from the disease, found at DesMoinesRegister.com/IowaMourns.

Betty Dorenkamp, 89, Belmond. Skilled with a butcher knife, expertly cutting corn off the cob and carving chicken for frying.

Randall Jones, 63, Cedar Rapids. Brought people together with a good meal and a strong Grey Goose martini.

Marilyn Millage, 82, Sioux City. Collected souvenir spoons and memorabilia of Mickey Mouse, her favorite character.

Dwight Nernes, 76, Leon. Once sang at the Grand Ole Opry.

Juan Jose Jauregui Samudio, 60, Storm Lake.

Joyce Sharp, 95, Johnston. An avid gardener, knitter and winemaker.