Lowell Eugene Jenkins (and he loved his full name) lived life to the fullest, while inspiring others to do the same; he understood that “the fullest” contained both joy and sorrow. To that point, he engaged fully on his last great journey through dementia. He would thank the Alzheimer Society for opportunities to explore his dementia; he was honored that one of its social workers asked him to help lead a group for men who were newly diagnosed. He would thank the Adult Day Program where he laughed, made new friends and tried out new skills. He would especially thank Volunteer Services at the complex care hospital where he volunteered for 10 years; staff members there found ways that he could continue visiting his beloved patients long after the dementia was having its way with him: they recognized that he was “still Lowell.”
Lowell was born in Missouri and remained connected to St. Joseph and Faucett, where he was raised by his beloved Grandma Vicki, and from whence he maintained childhood friends to the day he died. Although Lowell was an only child, his cousins, Sam and Mary Anne, may as well have been his siblings.
Lowell started his working life as a Quaker Oats salesman, but soon changed course when he encountered street people in Kansas City; he was troubled by how a wealthy country allowed so much poverty and despair. Lowell obtained an master’s degree in social work from University of Kansas in 1963, working and teaching at the University of Kansas before being recruited as director of field instruction to Colorado State University in Fort Collins for 25 fulfilling years. He subsequently co-authored a pioneering book on building high-quality field education programs in schools of social work. Further, he was exactly the kind of inspirational teacher that all new social workers should be lucky to know. In addition to teaching, Lowell had an active private counseling practice for many years.
Lowell and his first wife Barbara (deceased,1991) had three much-loved daughters Shelly, Elizabeth and Jena, with nine grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. His precious grandchildren cherish their memories of Grandfather’s Nights when they all spent the night with Lowell and he regaled them with stories of his boyhood on a Missouri farm or they went on an expedition to the greenhouse to choose flowers to plant in Grandpa Longhair’s yard.
Lowell and Barbara were part of a group of four couples who were the total Mennonite congregation in Fort Collins in the mid-seventies. They and their girls added energy and helped to spread the work of the budding church, including outreach to those who would become new members. Their commitment helped to establish a solid foundation for the church.
Lowell was proud to be a social worker and participated in many community development projects both in the US and abroad. He was active in various Fort Collins initiatives over the years including foster care and hospice care. He was active with the National Association of Social Workers, with which he did extensive volunteer work in Russia when it was opening up to international engagement in the early 1990s. He loved traveling and befriended people wherever he went.
Lowell retired and moved to Toronto in 2000 to be with his ‘Canadian sweetheart,’ Julie Foley. They shared a love which they celebrated daily and that was palpable to anyone in their presence. Lowell quickly endeared himself to Julie’s parents, six siblings and their families, all of whom have their favorite Lowell stories.
Lowell charmed everyone with whom he spoke. He made friends with the local street people, the security guards in the condo building, and staff at the local bookstore. They all continued to ask about him, well after he moved to a long term care home.
Lowell’s last six years were significantly enhanced by the love and devotion provided by a wonderful private caregiver who ensured that “Mr. Lowell” was always looking good and feeling loved.
All friends are invited to a memorial service and celebration at 4 p.m., Saturday Jan. 28, at the Colorado State University Lory Student Center in the Longs Peak Room. Please come with your best Lowell stories and wear purple, as it was Lowell’s favorite color!
In lieu of flowers, gifts to Colorado State University Foundation to benefit the Lowell Eugene Jenkins Scholarship in Social Work would be greatly appreciated. This fund was generously established by Lowell’s dear friends Carl and Karen Spina as a marvelous tribute to Lowell’s legacy: (PO Box 1870, Fort Collins CO 80522) or online.
Published in The Coloradoan from Jan. 14 to Jan. 15, 2017