Obituary : Doris L. Low
Doris Low died on July 26 at Martha's Vineyard Hospital, in her 88th year.
To those who cannot imagine just how much the world has changed in the last 88 years, 1920 was the same year that Congress ratified the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, that was also the year when the first regularly scheduled licensed radio station went on the air, as well as the year when Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III died.
While Doris Low lived well beyond her allotted three score years and ten, she always was interested in nature trails and wildlife. She was an inveterate weather watcher. She loved poetry, animals, birds, and flowers - but like all of us Doris was always much more than the sum of her interests.
Doris was born in Denver, Col. in 1920 to Bertha and Harry Low, where her father worked as a mining engineer. While Doris was still a child, the family moved to Brockton when her parents were suddenly called back to help save the family business. But by then it was too late, for the Great Depression was already underway, and the family box-making business folded long before Doris entered her teens.
When times were better, her parents had done their best to send Doris' three older brothers off to college, but by 1938 it was all her parents could afford to pay Doris's tuition for a year or two to a secretarial school in nearby Boston. After her secretarial school training, Doris continued to live at home as she went to work as a secretary in a Brockton last factory (lasts were those wooden forms manufactured in the shape of the human foot that were commonly used in the making and repairing of shoes).
But Doris was too young, too bright, too talented, and too determined to see her employment in a shoe factory as anything other than a setback to her ambitions. After all, her grandfather had once been the mayor of Brockton, and a delegate to the 1908 Republican National Convention that nominated William H. Taft for president. Her father was an MIT graduate. Her oldest brother Emery had followed in his father's footsteps as an MIT-trained engineer. By then, her second oldest brother, Charles, was already a talented professional musician, and the youngest brother Lawrence was on his way to becoming one of the best-known artists of what the art history books still sometimes refer to as "The Boston School."
During the years that she worked as a secretary in the last factory, Doris sang in church choirs, studied music with Boston's premier voice coach, Gertrude Ehrhart, and was already beginning to sing professionally in churches and synagogues in and around Boston.
Then, in 1942, her future began to brighten when she was encouraged to audition for an opening for a contralto to join the professional quartet that sang every weekend over the summer season in the Oak Bluffs acoustically renowned Union Chapel on the Island of Martha's Vineyard. She was offered the job and her memories of these years were always to be fondly recalled.
And then in the early 1950's her life took even another turn for the better when she left the shoe factory to take another secretarial job with the prestigious Cushman Laboratory in Sharon. And from there came another quantum leap in her career when she was invited to continue her job as a valued Cushman trainee to accept the offer to do much the same work in Washington, D.C., as a government employee with the U.S. Geological Survey team in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Now the real Doris began to come into her own, for while continuing her singing career in some the largest churches in Washington, Doris went to work taking night courses at American University and rose rapidly to fill a position of a Physical Science Technician in Geology whose specialty was the study of Foraminifer (the study small marine protozoans), where she worked closely with Research Geologist Ruth Todd, with whom she published a number of scientific papers.
Not bad for a former secretary in a last factory. Yet during all of this time Doris never gave up her avocation as a professional contralto.
When Ruth Todd retired, Ruth and Doris bought a home on Martha's Vineyard, where Ruth Todd continued to do her research at home while Doris commuted regularly from the Vineyard to the Wood's Hole Oceanographic until she retired once again triumphant to the Island of Martha's Vineyard that she now called home.
Doris was predeceased by Ruth Todd, by her three brothers, and by her nephews, Gregory Gordon Low and Emery Morton Low III. She is survived by her niece, Sharon Low Stein and her children, Lauren Gill, Christopher Gill, and Melanie Ernst, and their children.
Her family and friends would like to thank Dr. Lamb, her care team, and the nurses at Windemere and Martha's Vineyard Hospital.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 2, at 11 am in the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown, where Doris was a member of the choir long after her retirement to the Vineyard. A musical prelude will begin the service at 10:45 am. Friends are invited to the reception at the Church Hall following the service.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
In lieu of flowers, please send a donation in her name to the Martha's Vineyard's MSPCA, P.O. Box 2097, Edgartown, MA 02539.
Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs. Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for online guest book and information.