Cancer Society “royalty” Frank Lowry came to Taranaki more than 20 years ago looking for a quieter life, but Witt journalism student Kyle Wadsworth discovers the New Zealand Order of Merit holder found his skills were still much in demand.
When Frank Lowry catches a glimpse of New Plymouth school children playing outside on a summer’s day, their faces shaded by the wide brims of their floppy sunhats, he’s entitled to a glow of satisfaction.
During the 90s the former Taranaki Cancer Society executive officer oversaw education programmes and health campaigns, including the Shady School Policy, designed to keep kids safe in the sun.
“There are so many cancers that can be avoided and prevented by early detection, and we’ve done a lot of work keeping people safe from the sun, especially in the schools of New Zealand,” says the 83-year-old.
“You only have to pass schools in New Zealand now and children are out in the playground with hats on.”
Lowry should actually have been putting his feet up after a decade of service to the Christchurch Cancer Society when he arrived in Taranaki in 1990 with his wife Miriam.
But his retirement plans didn’t come to fruition.
“My wife and I came up here [New Plymouth] to retire for various reasons, family being one of them, and a change of scene from Canterbury, but the Cancer Society wouldn’t let me retire,” Lowry says grinning.
Instead, the society wanted him to help get the Taranaki Centre into its own building and expand its services, the job he had just done for the Canterbury- West Coast division.
Twenty years later, these goals have largely been achieved and Lowry couldn’t be prouder.
“When I look around here, I have a certain amount of satisfaction and I believe we’ve gone in the right direction,” says Lowry who recently celebrated the Taranaki Cancer Society’s 75th anniversary with former colleagues.
The organisation began in 1929 when the New Zealand branch of the British Empire Cancer Campaign opened in Wellington, and the Taranaki branch opened in 1937.
Now known as the Cancer Society of New Zealand, it is the largest non- government funder of cancer research in the country.