© 2012 Idaho Press-Tribune
ROSWELL — Every Friday until her death last week at age 106, Helen Lowell hosted tea parties in her Roswell home.
Dressed in sophisticated but conservative clothing, Lowell would set fine China cups and silver spoons, along with a plate of chocolates on a bright table cloth and invite her friends to join her.
They would sip tea and discuss history (Lowell co-authored a history of the lower Boise Valley called “Our First Hundred Years” in 1999), politics (she was an ardent Republican) or literature (she always kept a thick book at hand) with a dignity borrowed from a bygone era.
“She was always a lady, like a character out of a Victorian novel,” recalled friend Sandy Bartles.
Lowell, a former teacher, historian and church leader, was born July 20, 1905, in Boise.
She graduated from Boise High School and earned a degree in education from The College of Idaho in 1926. While teaching English at Caldwell High School, she began dating Blake Lowell, a fellow College of Idaho graduate and the high school’s football coach.
The couple moved to Roswell to be closer to Blake Lowell’s family -- his father, J.H., engineered Lake Lowell reservoir -- and keep an orchard of apples and plums. They had two children, Sara and David.
Living in the country was a transition for Helen, whose sensibilities derived from the capital city. But she learned to enjoy camping and fishing, along with reading books and serving tea.
Lowell was a teacher throughout her life, both formally and informally.
She taught at Adrian Union High School until 1968 and gave Sunday school classes through the Sterry Memorial Presbyterian Church for 60 years. Up until her death, she made it a point to seek out young people.
“Even teenagers recognized her character,” said George Dilley, who credits Lowell with helping him become a respectable person. “She had an aura you don’t see very often.”
Judy French-Barnes recalled being a girl in the late 1940s, when Lowell was her Sunday School teacher. For a gift to French-Barnes, Lowell sent a care package in her name to Germany.
She soon received a letter from a German widow whose family had been killed in World War II.
“It was an important lesson that people are the same all over the world,” French-Barnes said. “Even though we had hard feelings towards the Germans, I realized they were people too.”
As she passed 100, Lowell continued to be active in her church and community. She never needed glasses, and her hair stayed black even though she didn’t dye it.
She was ferociously independent, driving around in her Oldsmobile, her head just peeking above the steering wheel.
The weekend before her death, Lowell was hospitalized briefly, but she wouldn’t let the doctors keep her.
“She wanted to die in her own home. She had a very strong character and a mind of her own,” said Bartles, who visited Lowell a few hours before she died Thursday evening. “She was not just listening to other people, she was contributing to the conversation. Things went well.”