The Reverend Dr. Willa Dean Lowery, M.D., M.Div., MPH, M.S., B.S., passed away July 14th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Lowery was born April 16. 1927 in Caryville, Florida to the late Ernest Lowery, Sr. and Nadine Fowler Lowery.
As a child, she loved to learn, often reading the dictionary in order to learn new words. This trait of learning carried over to her youth and followed her the rest of her life. She was a 1944 graduate of Port St. Joe High School, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Stetson University in 1948. Following Stetson, she earned a Master of Science degree in bacteriology from the University of Florida in 1952 and worked in Belem, Brazil for several years as a research bacteriologist for the United States Government. After returning to the US, she enrolled in the newly founded School of Medicine at the University of Miami, where she earned her Doctor of Medicine in 1959 and served as rotating intern at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
From 1960-1965, she worked as a public health official with the Florida Department of Health, serving the communities of Escambia, Gulf, and Franklin Counties. Always a trailblazer and champion of human rights, she single-handedly desegrated the once segregated waiting and exam rooms of the health departments she served. While working with the Florida Department of Health, she earned her master’s degree in public health from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962. From Florida, she relocated to Pittsburgh in 1965, where she taught obstetrics-gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and became chief resident at Magee Women’s Hospital. In 1969, Dr. Lowery opened a private practice in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and served in this capacity until her retirement from medicine in 1988. She became the first female OB-GYN to practice at Passavant Hospital.
Throughout her life, Dr. Lowery had a strong desire to serve people by helping to heal both their physical and spiritual needs. Following her retirement from medicine, she began seminary, culminating in receiving a Master’s in divinity from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1995. She then began a second career as an ordained Presbyterian minister serving three parishes in Indiana County in the Kiskiminetas Presbytery until her second retirement in 2010.
In 2013, Dr. Lowery became the volunteer Treasurer at The Church of the Holy Cross (Episcopal), Homewood, thus earning the moniker “RDT”—Reverend, Doctor, Treasurer. She held this position until 2017, when she retired at the age of 90. In addition to her lifelong career of serving the needs of others, she enjoyed travel, cooking, becoming a Bronze Life Master while playing competitive Bridge, and was a voracious reader.
Dr. Lowery spent her whole life striving to make our world a better place. She was a healer, a teacher, a scientist, a champion of those that were downtrodden and a warrior for justice.
In addition to her parents, Dr. Lowery is preceded in death by a brother, Ernest Lowery, Jr. Left to cherish her memory are her beloved niece Sissy Lowery Worley (Chuck) of Port St. Joe, Florida; two nephews, Ernest Allen Lowery of Port St. Joe, and David Paul Lowery of Atlanta, Georgia., two grand nieces, Lacey A. Lowery, Charlotte Nadine Lowery-Milligan and two grand nephews, Ernest Tyler Worley, and William Richard Lowery-Milligan. In addition to these, she is also survived by many friends and admirers. Dr. Lowery touched many lives throughout her life and career, and her memory will be blessing to all who had the privilege of knowing her. Her funeral service will be held in the UPMC Passavant-McCandless Hospital Assembly Hall on Saturday, July 24, at 11:00 a.m. The Rev. Dr. Moni McIntyre will officiate. Masks are required.
The family respectfully suggests donations be made to the Carter Center, One Copenhill, 453 John Lewis Freedom Parkway NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 or https://www.cartercenter.org/donate Arrangements by Perman Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Inc. Shaler Township.
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