Thomas Arthur Low entered the world on July 25, 1935, in Portland Oregon as the second child, but first son of an English couple, Thomas Hedley Low and Dorothy Muriel McKnight Low.
Tom’s father was married once previously, and had two daughters with his first wife, Alice, in Portland Oregon. When she died of tuberculosis, he went back to his original homeland of England to seek either help with his teenage girls, or perhaps, a new wife. He had some casual knowledge of Dorothy McKnight, who was 18 years his junior. After some time, he asked to marry her. She clearly stated as a stipulation of marriage that they have children. To this he agreed, and the couple returned to Portland, Oregon, to start a new life together.
Their first child was a girl, Dorothy Patricia, called “Patsy” and later, “Pat.” Next on the scene was her little brother, Thomas Arthur. Two years after Tom was born, the birth of another boy, Richard John, made the family complete.
In recent years Tom reminisced about his childhood. The family loved going to the beach often. He said “the daddy train” would pull into Seaside, where fathers accompanied their families to the beach, and at the end of the weekend, with their families situated for a week’s vacation, the dads hopped back on the train, returning to Portland for the work week. At week’s end they would get back on the train to rejoin their families for the next weekend. Tom always loved those trains. Even in these last years of his life he enjoyed listening to a recording of train sounds and loved the “Polar Express” movie, specifically because of the memories the train noises evoked in his mind. He said, reliving those vactions: “We lived at the beach all day. My sweet mom was there all day with us. My mom and dad were wonderful parents. We had a super, super time as kids.”
He shared another great memory in the last couple years, stating: “The other place our family loved to go was Victoria, British Columbia. We got to go on the ferry boat! It was English there. We hit the English shops, the bakeries, ate fish and chips, and bought souvenirs. Once they had an honoring ceremony and invited Dad, since he had been in the English military, serving during World War I. He got to march in, wearing his military medals.”
Tom recently said, “I found out later in life that our parents planned to move us all back to England. I am guessing I would have been 4-5 years old. Apparently, the tickets were even purchased and we were packed to go, when suddenly the tickets were canceled. The Germans were starting to torpedo ships and it wasn’t safe. I believe the US government canceled all trips oversees at that time.”
Tom went to grade school at Mt Tabor Elementary in SE Portland, very close to his home at the time. In fact, Tom lived his whole life within a few square miles of this neighborhood!
His secondary education was at Benson Polytechnic High School. During these years he loved hanging out with his brother, Rich, enjoying friendships together, engaging in various forms of silliness, and having numerous adventures. Some escapades were kept secret from their mom, having some element of daring and danger. It was remarked by one who knew them at that time that Tom and Rich were quite the duo, naturally entertaining their friends and acquaintances.
Tom had a job at Washer’s Grocery, which at that time was located on the corner of 15th and NE Broadway. After school at Benson he would drive his car to the grocery, where he was given a list of groceries ordered that the store did not carry. It was Tom’s job to go buy them at other stores and deliver them to the customers. Tom would call out “Washers!” as he knocked on the customers’ doors.
Tom’s father, being so much older than his mom, preceded her in death, when Tom was only 16 years old.
Tom’s mom selected a church for the family when she heard a Portland British radio preacher on the radio, Dr. Albert G Johnson, who was the pastor at Hinson Memorial Baptist Church. This became the family’s home church and the place where Tom delved into life-long friendships he has held to this day.
Tom’s faith in Jesus as the source of spiritual salvation was always pivotal in his life. Once recent Memorial Day, he told the story of how he decided to come to the Lord, as he dusted off the grave marker of a certain young man. The boy’s name was Ted Sageser, and he spoke with tears of the indelible mark he had left on Tom’s life. He said when he got to heaven one day, he was going to go right up to Ted and thank him for being the huge spiritual influence in his life that led him to come to Jesus as his Savior.
The story of Ted Sageser and what happened on Mount St Helens was relived and told by Tom in the last couple of years. With the internet now being available, he even asked that the original Oregonian article be found so he could see it. It was retrieved, and he retold the story of that fateful day on video.
Tom was about 18 years old. He was part of an outing of the Hinson Youth Group up to the mountain. The group was led by their experienced youth leader and his wife. His brother, Rich, was along too, as well as some young guys he has had as friends up to this present time.
He recalls that the guys and girls were split up for a morning of devotions and exploring before they headed back to Portland. In the guys’ group, the youth leader had discovered, with fear, that some areas were icy, and there was a near-accident when one boy lost his footing and slipped. Then, suddenly, another boy, Ted Sageser, slipped, but could not recover and slid into a crevasse. The group was not able to get him out. It was evident he was injured. The youth leader and the boys helped keep him warm as others headed out for help. Ted’s parents were notified and they immediately got onto the road to Mt St Helens.
The wait for help was long, cold, and emotionally-draining for the teenage boys. It was well after dark when a rescue team came. All believed the best as they managed to free Ted and get him to the rescue truck. However, the youthful boys were stunned and changed that day, when they found Ted had not survived by the time he was placed in the emergency vehicle.
Tom explained it this way recently: “My brother and I tried to be cool and thought we were. Ted was not “cool” in that way. He was a sweet guy who just LOVED JESUS.”
Tom said he realized then that if it had been him who died, he would not have been ready to meet the Lord. Immediately, he surrendered his whole heart to God, and accepted the salvation Jesus’ death and resurrection purchased for those who would come to Him. Tom never wavered in his faith. In fact, in these last months, his eyes have been firmly secured on the awaiting glory, and he was more than ready to go to the Lord!
After Tom graduated high school he joined the Navy and was enlisted from 1954-1956. He was stationed at Norfolk,Virginia, and having duty in the Engine Room, his job listing was FN (for fireman). In January he usually left for sea for about 2 months. He worked with the submarines in the Virgin Islands.
After the Navy, he decided to further his education. He started out at Lewis and Clark College, where he studied history and general subjects for a year. He decided then to go to BIOLA College. However, as all his credits did not transfer, he finished his education ultimately at Lewis and Clark College with a Bachelor’s Degree, majoring in History.
In the early 1960’s, Tom was invited to a bowling social at “Mayfair Lanes at 82nd and Division.” His friend, Gordon Matthews, had brought his girlfriend, Carol, to the party. And Carol had brought her close friend from Grant High School, a “Miss Nancy Nelson.”
In the mix of young people there, Nancy was introduced to Tom. Not knowing how to score the game, Nancy asked Tom for assistance. Tom admits to being quite smitten with Nancy at this first meeting. He was immediately interested in her, but he heard from Carol that she had a boyfriend at the time. Shortly thereafter, Nancy’s boyfriend joined the Army, and when the romance waned, it was time for Tom to make his move and pursue Nancy.
Tom and Nancy began to date. Some of their favorite hangouts were Yaw’s Top-Notch, Old Country Kitchen, Goldberg’s in the Lloyd Center, as well as socials at church. Soon Tom was not interested in dating anyone else. He recently stated that with Nancy he was never bored.
In October of 1961, Tom planned a special birthday for Nancy at the The Quay restaurant on the Columbia River. Walking through the dark parking lot, he stopped under a streetlight. Beneath its glow, Tom took out an engagement ring and asked, “Nancy, will you marry me?” She said yes. They celebrated at dinner.
On August 17, 1962, Thomas Arthur Low and Nancy Carol Nelson were married at Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in southeast Portland in a stunning ceremony surrounded by many friends and family.
During marriage, Tom’s initial work life was his job at Columbia Region Association of Governments (CRAG). He had various duties, including drafting. He did not feel particularly suited to the job, nor did he feel satisfied, however.
Tom decided to take real estate classes, and he became a commercial real estate agent. He continued in this line of work, enjoying it, for all his working life.
In 1970, Tom and Nancy had their first child, a girl named Karen Anne . Karen became a big sister when Kristin Michelle was born in 1972. Their family was complete when two more daughters joined them: Jennifer Kay in 1975 and Melissa Lynn in 1977.
Tom had a definite creative bent, first noted by a teacher when he was in elementary school. As an adult, he enrolled in classes in pottery and painting. We all have enjoyed his works of art over the years. He did it for the sheer joy of it.
It was Nancy’s idea that they plant prize-winning roses. Tom was game, but they were floored when someone who had this passion admitted to planting more than 200 rosebushes! Tom and Nancy decided to take a more modest approach by planting a fraction of that number. But prize-winners they were. With Tom’s creativity in artful presentation, and the joy he had for gardening, he had drawers full of ribbons won in the Northwest for his achievements, not just a few being first and second place ribbons.
Tom loved family life, and he loved creating lovely places to enhance it. He once said Nancy was the “idea lady,” and he was the one to bring her vision to fruition. Hence, the family enjoyed a new bay window in their living room, a new deck in the backyard, fencing, a greenhouse, and a pergola. His garden was always evolving. Many have enjoyed his yard, blooming with flowers of so many varieties, including snowdrops, crocuses, clematis, daphne, gardenia, and of course, the roses. His deck was his favorite place to eat in fair weather, up until the last year of his life.
Tom and Nancy were especially blessed with an array of wonderful, lifelong friends. For instance, they shared ownership of a beach house with such friends for more than 45 years. Early in their marriage they joined a “potluck group” meant to keep good friends in touch. This group met faithfully, and only in recent years has given up their regular schedule. But the friendships are as strong as ever. Good friends have been writing, calling, and visiting Tom up until the time of his passing.
Tom and Nancy had a motto for marriage: “A husband and wife need to pull in the same direction.” They did. There was rarely real friction between them, and they enjoyed 58 years of marriage together, before Nancy passed away of dementia on November 7, 2020.
Tom’s focal point while grieving Nancy was caring for their daughter, Kristin. She developed dementia, and after falling in a seizure and breaking her ankle, she was placed for rehabilitation in a foster care home not far from Tom’s house. Tom’s main activity was tearfully visiting with Kristin almost every day, staying hours at a time.
Tom then began to develop his own symptoms of dementia and soon needed in-home care, himself. There was space available where Kristin lived, so eventually he was placed there with her. Tom was already well-loved since the other residents and staff had bonded with him through the year while he was visiting Kristin.
Tom continually regressed physically and mentally, but he was always making a joke, smiling, had the staff laughing many times, and was a joy to visit. But he longed more than anything to be HOME with His Savior, and to see his dear wife again.
After a long and heroic wait, He has arrived. Hallelujah!!
Tom passed away on May 17, 2022 at 2:27 pm with familiar loved ones in proximity to escort him Home. He was the last of his original family to make the exit from this world. In our imaginations, we are enjoying the reunion they must be having in that great eternal paradise.
Tom is survived by his four daughters, Karen, Kristin, Jennifer, and Melissa, together with their families.