Cover photo for Ethel M. Lowe's Obituary
1942 Ethel 2017

Ethel M. Lowe

November 15, 1942 — March 16, 2017

Ethel Maurine Lowe was born to William McKinley and Vena Gertrude (Cassell) Hancock on November 15, 1942 in Pulaski, Virginia.  She was one of 5 children born to her parents.  The family moved to Vanport, Oregon in 1943 and resided there until the Vanport Flood on Memorial Day of 1948. During this flood, the Columbia River swelled after weeks of heavy rain and spilled over the dikes, and everything they had once owned was destroyed.

The family survived, rebuilt and settled in North Portland where they lived for the rest of Ethel’s childhood. Ethel attended Roosevelt High School until she married her first husband, Floyd Allen Ray, who she would have 3 children with - Vince Allen Ray, Teresa Maurine (Ray/Boyer) McCoy and Crystal Marie Ray.  She divorced Floyd several years later and went back to school complete her GED and then attended college for Business Management.

Ethel and her young children moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they stayed with distant relative shortly after her divorce. Ethel found a job in manufacturing, and moved her family of four into an apartment.  The town was harsh, and the schools were rough so Ethel decided to move once again, this time to Dublin, Virginia.  During their 3 years there, she worked at a resort where she stayed with her kids in a furnished lake-side cottage.  In addition, she waitressed at the Ranch House Restaurant, where she earned the nickname “Smiley Wanderer” because her car was covered in hand-painted smiley faces. She also worked at a manufacturing company and worked as a volunteer for the local ambulance service.  Working three jobs was nothing short of difficult, and she would often wake up not knowing which job she was going to. But she never let her struggles show or overwhelm her, and her only concern was providing and caring for her children. She never complained about the hard work she had to do, and faced every day with a smile.

A few years later, she moved with her kids back to Oregon, this time to Gresham.  Ethel being the hard worker she was, held several jobs here as well.  She worked for both Cooper and Wygrant CPA firm and Connor Spring and Manufacturing.

In 1976 Ethel met the absolute love of her life, Larry Wayne Lowe.  Ethel worked for his parent’s company, Atlas Building Wreckers. The company was established in 1912 by Larry’s parents, Walter and Rachel Lowe.  When they retired, Ethel and Larry bought the business and changed its name to Allied Demolition and Future Resources in 1980.  All of Ethel’s children - Vince, Teresa and Crystal - came to work at Allied with Ethel and Larry. In later years, they even turned the back office into a nursery for her children’s children, truly making it a family business to its core.

Ethel and Larry got married on April 2, 1988. Larry continued to embrace Ethel’s children as his own, and they had a very happy life together. In addition to their demolition business, they also were private investigators for a number of years. Some of their favorite hobbies together were collecting coins, and raising animals on their farm, which consisted of 40 acres up on Rocky Point Road in Scappoose, Oregon. They enjoyed many years there with their two German Shepherds, Thunder and Lightning. Their home was constantly filled with family gatherings ranging from target practice off of the porch, to countless parties, dinners, and poker nights. They lived in this home together until their time was cut short when Larry passed away a year after his lung cancer came out of remission, and was diagnosed to be terminal.  Larry preceded her in death in 1992; he was only 47 years old.

Even though she’d lost Larry, her family continued to grow and flourish. She moved with her dogs to her final home in Portland, Oregon where her son helped renovate the property. She became the strong matriarch in her family.  Vince had one daughter, Crystal had one daughter and Teresa had three daughters and one son.

Along with losing her husband, in 1992 Ethel was diagnosed with a rare condition – primary biliary cirrhosis of the liver. Although she was only given 10 years to live at best, she beat the odds as only she could, and lived 24 years after her diagnosis.

Then in 1998, Ethel was out dancing with her daughter Crystal, something they enjoyed doing nearly every weekend together. There was a piece of ice on the dance floor, and Ethel broke her wrist and needed to have several pins and a plate placed in her arm. Like every challenge she faced in life, she did not let this diminish her smile, and even found humor in the situation by calling herself a break-dancer.

After selling Allied Demolition and Future Resources, Ethel began working as an office assistant in 1999 at the Housing Authority of Portland (which would later become Home Forward). Although it wasn’t a family business like she had became accustomed to, the job and the people she worked alongside with quickly became like a home away from home and extended family. She worked there full-time for 18 years, up until a few months before she passed away. She lovingly became known as the “no” lady, and even had a button she would press to jokingly tell her inspectors “no”. Being the caring woman she was, she would always make coffee and bring candy in for her co-workers because she considered them to be a second family.  She loved all of the jokes she shared and company events she attended with them. Although she could have years ago, she refused to ever retire because she really loved and enjoyed what she did.

Ethel was quite the prankster to her friends and family.  For birthdays, she would surprise her loved one’s by “ballooning” them. This meant she would, by hand, blow up hundreds of balloons and fill the room, office or post/string them up all over the house, work or car of whomever she was ballooning. She eventually even purchased a license for a business – Balloons-R-Us – because she enjoyed doing this so much.

Her tradition for “Sweet 16” birthdays of her grandchildren was that she would save $16 in pennies and wrap each one individually and put the 1,600 pennies in a container as a gift.  She also loved purchasing gifts and wrapping them in multiple boxes, then in multiple wrapping papers just to be funny.

Another prank she enjoyed pulling off was hiring strippers for Larry’s or Vince’s or another loved one’s birthday to come in to the office (or even on the jobsite) and pose as police or contractors. She would get great joy in the “gotcha” factor in the surprise and the embarrassment of her victims.

Ethel had went quite a long time without injury or illness until 2004, when she was on her way to work one morning and was struck in a crosswalk by a van that had run a red light. The impact had given her a small laceration on her head accompanied by a concussion, as well as completely shattering her left ankle. After a 5 hour surgery, there were bones removed and replaced by screws and a plate; however, her surgeon was unsure if she would walk again, and stressed to Ethel that he could not fix this injury twice so she had to use extreme caution. Just as years before though, she recovered with nothing but optimism, and for a long time only had a slight limp. Although years later, this accident caused her left hip to become extremely painful and eventually needed a walker to help her mobility, she spent many years still enjoying dancing, going to the beach, and road-tripping with her family.

Ethel was never a smoker or a drinker, but she was faced another challenge when she was diagnosed with cancer at the base of her tongue in 2005. Although a cause was never determined, doctors hypothesized it could have been caused by second-hand smoke. She battled against this by enduring 35 treatments of radiation. Even though complications occurred during her treatments (emergency gall-bladder removal and a temporary feeding tube), she beat the 40% odds and went into remission. She continued to receive clear results at follow up appointments for 12 years.

In 2008, Ethel was preceded in death by her daughter Teresa.  Teresa was only 47 years old when the effects of alcoholism took her to Heaven to join Larry and others Ethel loved and missed dearly. As difficult this time was for her, she was still strong enough for the entire family to turn to for support and comfort.

In 2012, Ethel was finally ready to undergo surgery for her painful hip, but during pre-operative assessments her doctors found a defective heart valve which she needed emergency surgery to replace. This news was a shock to her, but she took this in stride, and made a full recovery once again. In fact, she even joked and said her scar on her chest made her look like she had “more goods”.

In October of 2016, Ethel’s cancer came out of remission with a vengeance, and she was told that it would take a complex and long surgery to remove, and that radiation was not an option this time around. As always with her strong spirit, she decided to fight the battle again.  She had a 12 hour surgery on November 29, 2016 where they temporarily removed half of her mandible (jaw) to remove a 5cm section of her tongue, replacing this with fascia and a vein from her forearm. They also took a skin graft from her thigh to cover her forearm.  Finally, they removed 40 lymph nodes in her neck and finally they reattached her jaw with a plate.  The doctors announced clear margins and no further treatment was needed, so she began the rough road to recovery.

Ethel was slow to bounce back from this extensive surgery, but greeted every day with a smile and effort that cannot be matched. Although doctors were unsure if she would be able to swallow again, she worked hard every day on maintaining her strength and on perfecting her speech. She revisited the hospital a few times in the following months for blood pressure issues and for fluid around her lungs, but she remained positive that she would recover and even return to work. Sadly, she went to the hospital one last time when she developed pneumonia again in early March, and this time she did not return home.

Just before her last hospital visit, she’d also learned that her cancer was back again, this time on the fifth cranial nerve and there were no viable options to fight this cancer a third time.  Her family came to be by her side and she comforted each of us, telling us “we just have to come to accept this; I’m on a new path now”.

At approximately 4:00 AM on March 14, Ethel suffered cardiac arrest but was brought back to life.  While in the ICU, her family sat by her bedside and shared tears, prayer, laughter and love. She enjoyed a stripper of her very own, and several types of alcohol which she had not had in 24 years. The last two days of her life was a gift to her entire family, the best gift she could have ever given us: to be at peace and having found acceptance of her path. She gave us all the comfort in knowing she was ready, and we returned that comfort by assuring her it was okay to go to God.

Ethel passed peacefully at 3:40PM on March 16, 2017 with her family close by her bedside, holding her hands while praying and singing to her.  She will be missed an immeasurable amount by all of the lives she has touched.

She suffered many great losses in her lifetime – the loss of her mother and father, her husband, her dogs, all four of her brothers, and her daughter – and she was challenged with great adversity and many struggles. Regardless of all of her hardships, she was accepting, open-armed and loving to all that she welcomed into her life. She was the beacon of light for our entire family with her love, compassion, thoughtfulness, tenacity, optimism, strength, courage, humor, kindness, and generosity.

Ethel is survived by her son Vincent Allen Ray and daughter Crystal Marie Ray.  She is also survived by her grandchildren: Kilee Ann (Boyer/Kent) Van Driel, James Lee Boyer, Kenzie Taylor (Fox) Womack, Jackson (Jacqueline) McCoy, Angela Marie Larrele Ray and Nichole Leann Ray; and great-grandchildren: Alyssa, Jacob, Carson, Ayden, Bryson, Camille, Alexis and Aleah. She dearly loved every person in her family, and her legacy will be continued through each and every one of us. Although she died at the age of 74, she forever maintained that she was 39 and holding. Her spirit truly captured that saying perfectly.  Ethel is laid to rest with her husband, Larry, at Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland. May she forever Rest in Peace.

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