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Posted at 9:58 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Story pick: Ed Lowe, Himself

By Theresa Vargas

A great storyteller died last month. Make that “Long Island’s Favorite Storyteller” – a title Ed Lowe earned by writing about everyday people in his columns that graced Newsday for three decades and later the Long Island Press. As most writers would probably agree, it’s easy to make the extraordinary interesting; not so much the ordinary. But that’s what he did – and did well.

Take Monica Merritt, a 21-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, who asked the boy across the street, a star football player, to the prom. Lowe wrote this of her mother’s reaction:

Virginia Merritt tried to alert Bobby Hubek before Monica closed in on him one day recently, but there wasn't time. Monica marched across the street and asked him directly. "Bobby had a torn football jersey on at the time," Mrs. Merritt said, "and he was fidgeting with one of the holes in it. You could see he didn't know exactly what to say. He said, 'Uh, uh, yeah, Monica, uh sure...,' like that, very nervously. But then he came over to see me the next day, and . . . well, you have to know that Bobby has the reputation of being sort of rough and tumble. On the field and off. Especially in school, if you know what I mean. He's big and good-looking and tough, and sometimes he may have given the school people a time, you know? But he was always a gentleman with me. And he came over and said, 'Mrs. Merritt, I really want to take Monica to her prom. I really do. And I will.'
"Well," Mrs. Merritt continued, "on the night of the prom, he walked across the street wearing his best suit and carrying a corsage, which he put on Monica's wrist. His father had just bought a light blue Chevette, and he asked me if it was all right if he took her in the car, because he had borrowed it for the evening. And when he took her out to the car, he opened the door for her, just like an old-fashioned boy. I can't tell you how beautiful it was. I just can't tell you."

I knew Ed when I worked at Newsday. He was a staple at a bar a group of us often frequented (more times in a week than we probably should have) and each time he was ready with a story. Many nights we would just sit there and listen like a kindergarten class during story time, only with liquor in hand instead of juice boxes.

I knew and respected his work. But it wasn’t until his death that I came across some of his more personal musings: his blog, Ed Lowe, Himself. It's a great read, powerful not only because he started it after a near-fatal stroke in 2008 required him to relearn how to walk, talk, and yes, write, but also because he uses the same humor and conversational style that distinguished his columns to talk about everything from his newspaper career to his health issues. In an entry dated Oct. 8, 2010, he writes this about the liver cancer that eventually claimed his life:

“What the hell, I just busted my butt learning to say, ‘February,’ and, ‘Real Estate Agency,’ and to type, ‘alliteration,’ and, ‘communication.’ You think I’d lay down for a liver cancer that doesn’t have anything to do with my beer-drinking, which I don’t do any more, anyway?”
That’s the attitude I wish I could have, anyway—bold, defiant, devil-may-care, I guess, heroic.
My actual initial reaction, being brought up Irish Catholic, was, “Wow, whoever you are, I must have really pissed you off. You let me have two-and-a-half-years to sort of patch things up after the stroke—which I admit I fundamentally caused—and then you hand me this? A tumor? In my liver? What are you, a Sadist? Nurturing some kind of God complex, are we?
“Okay, withdraw that last remark.”

Rest in peace Ed Lowe – a storyteller among storytellers.

By Theresa Vargas  | February 9, 2011; 9:58 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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