When people enter the gym at St. John Fisher Elementary School (SJF), they will see a shiny new floor, featuring the name at midcourt of a fallen hero: Conner T. Lowry.
In addition, they will see phrases that describe Lowry and his personality: “Live Life Large” and “Live Life Kind.”
Lowry, a 2002 SJF graduate, died while serving with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan in 2012. A foundation named in his honor donated funds to have the gym refinished, and it was dedicated in his honor on Aug. 27.
His mother, Modie Lavin, said the tribute brought many emotions for her.
“Of course, it’s the image of him and recalling his time and years in this gym,” Lavin said. “But, it’s also the opportunity to send such a beautiful message—living life kind. So, the tribute of the floor along with that vibe of trying to instill in the kids in the school that message—this is major. I’m at a loss for words.”
The refurbished floor includes Lowry’s signature on one end and his initials on the other, in a red and blue dog tag.
“Live Life Kind”—a message local schools have preached in recent years—is under his name at midcourt, and that message accompanies another of Lowry’s mottos, “Live Life Large,” on a gym wall and above the entrance.
Near the entrance is a display honoring Lowry that includes his photo and life story.
When Lowry was serving overseas, he texted his mother requesting that if anything happened to him, he wanted funds in his name to be donated to SJF, 10200 S. Washtenaw Ave.
Tragically, the 24-year-old was killed in action on March 1, 2012. However, through the Conner T. Lowry Memorial Fund, a scholarship that helps SJF eight-graders with tuition has provided support for many years.
The opportunity to improve the gym came about this year, when the SJF athletic board reached out to the Lowry Fund.
Lavin called it “a perfect way to donate.”
Lowry’s aunt, Amy Mikuzis, said the foundation offered a quick response.
“We were absolutely elated,” Mikuzis said. “We were so touched by that. We said yes immediately.”
The dedication included students sharing Lowry’s story, both at SJF and in the military, and a performance of “Taps” on the saxophone by sixth-grader Danny Deacy.
The Rev. Kenneth Budzikowski, SJF’s pastor, blessed the new court.
Eighth-graders Cole Adamski, Lucy Mlyniec, Grace Monahan and Kate Griffin, who have received the scholarship, explained how Lowry, who grew to well over 6 feet tall, loved playing sports such as basketball in the gym.
“SJF was his home away from home,” they said. “It was where he began to live life large, a favorite motto of his.”
They also remembered his courage and sacrifice.
“Conner Lowry lived and died so that he could help create a better world for all of us,” the students said. “As members of the St. John Fisher community, we are forever grateful for his courage, bravery and for the example he gave to live each day as a gift. We are beyond thankful that when he spoke to his mom, he wanted to remember St. John Fisher in a special way, bringing us here today. He is a true definition of a hero.”
The Lowry Memorial Fund also donates to the Road Home Program, a non-profit at Rush University Medical Center where Lavin works, assisting military veterans dealing with traumatic issues.
For eight years, the fund has hosted a golf outing to raise money, with the latest edition held Aug. 17.
On the one-year anniversary of his death, Lowry was memorialized when the 10200 block of South Maplewood Avenue was named in his honor and a memorial at Beverly Park, located along that street, was unveiled.
At the SJF dedication, Lavin joined her family in a ribbon cutting, and she thrust her arms into the air to celebrate the latest tribute to her son.
She is in awe that her son’s last wishes have become reality.
“Who knew it would get to this level?” Lavin said. “I feel his presence.”
For information on the fund, visit the website for the Conner T. Lowry Memorial Fund.