Marilyn J. 'Jean' Lowry, Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland director, dies

Jean Lowry had earned the National Council of Garden Clubs’ Gold Star and was a master gardener, environmental studies consultant, garden consultant and landscape design consultant.
Jean Lowry had earned the National Council of Garden Clubs’ Gold Star and was a master gardener, environmental studies consultant, garden consultant and landscape design consultant. (Handout)

Marilyn J. “Jean” Lowry, a master gardener, Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland director and secretary-treasurer of the horticultural firm Lowry & Co., died Aug. 29 from multiple myeloma at her home in the Phoenix community of Baltimore County. She was 85.

“She had a passion for the industry and, as a broker, always offered plant material of the highest quality,” said Vanessa A. Finney of Lutherville, president of Quercus Inc., an event planning and trade show company.


“She helped bring a lot of beauty into the world, and her home garden was a showplace,” said Ms. Finney.

The former Marilyn Jean Bushyager was born in Greensburg, Pa., the daughter of Clifford H. Bushyager, a machinist, and Martha Whitehead Bushyager, a homemaker.


She was raised in Jeannette, Pa., and graduated from Jeannette High School. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in education in 1954 from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Pa., then a master’s degree, also in education, from Penn State in 1958.

She came to Towson and joined the faculty of the old Lida Lee Tall School, which was located on the campus of what is now Towson University. She taught there for a year.

She married John C. “Jack” Lowry, a Penn State horticultural graduate, in 1958, and they settled on Sweet Air Road in the Phoenix neighborhood, where they raised three children.

While attending an American Association of Nurserymen trade show in Boston in 1964, they met five growers who agreed to be represented by the couple.

They established Lowry & Co. that year. Mrs. Lowry, who was known as Jean, served as secretary-treasurer of the plant and horticulture business, which represented nurseries from coast to coast.

Bernard Siegel, first president of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation who helped steer more its philanthropy to the city, died Aug. 19 from cancer at the North Oaks Retirement Community. He was 88.

“They were inseparable; you always got both of them,” said Ms. Finney, who is also administrator of the Baltimore County Farm Bureau and executive director of Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association. “They were terribly well-respected. Jean and Jack were forces in the industry to be reckoned with.”

In the early days of the company, in order to transport samples to clients, Mrs. Lowry’s husband purchased a 1953 Cadillac ambulance-hearse, which he converted to suit his business needs.

“Jack was known for that hearse and people still ask if we have it,” Mrs. Lowry said last year in a biographical sketch. She reminisced about the early days of the business “when there were no computers or fax machines, and all Jack needed was a pen, an order blank and a car.”

Ms. Finney described Mrs. Lowry as “one of those individuals that people will grieve over.”

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“Jean cared about people, and she cared about her profession,” she said. “She was a presence, yet had a soft side. She was such a dynamic person who brought a great deal to the Maryland horticultural industry.”

For years, the couple exhibited annually at the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, where Ms. Finney serves as executive vice president. She noted that the organization has 975 members, and said the Lowrys “came for the first 48 years, and are [among] the last seven members who have been coming since its inception.”

“I really got to know Jack and Jean through [the trade show],” said E. Kelly Finney, vice president of Quercus and Ms. Finney’s husband. “I had the great pleasure of helping them in and out of the show, catching cabs, helping arrange details for set-up and tear down and talking on the phone periodically between shows.


“I loved Jean’s irreverence and talking politics and martinis,” he said. “I called her ‘my girlfriend.’”

In addition to working in the business, Mrs. Lowry was a member for 52 years of the Lutherville Garden Club and served three terms as its president. She had served as the District III Director of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, and held offices both locally and statewide with the organization.

She was a member of the National Garden Clubs Inc. and had twice taken all the courses necessary to earn the National Council of Garden Clubs’ Gold Star. She was a master gardener, environmental studies consultant, garden consultant and landscape design consultant.

She was also an active member of the Central Atlantic Region of National Garden Clubs Inc. and the National Council of State Garden Clubs.

The Lowrys’ 1-acre garden was frequently included on tours organized by the Maryland Horticulture Society, the Annapolis Horticulture Society and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society.

“In a suburban development in Phoenix, Maryland, it’s easy to spot Jack and Jean Lowry’s home. Their acclaimed collection of trees and plants begins curbside,” reported Baltimore Style Magazine. “An artistic, year-round tapestry of conifers, Ginkgoes and Japanese maples — highly textured and in a spectrum of yellows, greens and reds — offers the Lowrys screening from the road, and their neighbors a glimpse of a first-class garden more than five decades in the growing.”

“She loved nature, flowers and beautiful things,” said a daughter, Nancy Lowry Moitrier of Annapolis.

Mrs. Lowry had been a member since 1958 of Havenwood Presbyterian Church in Lutherville, where she sang in the choir for 35 years.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Chestnut Grove Presbyterian Church, 3701 Sweet Air Road, Phoenix.

In addition to her husband of 60 years, she is survived by a son, John Ryan Lowry of Finksburg; another daughter, Kim Hultbery of Forest Hill; and four grandchildren.

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