Bob Lowe was a fourth generation New Zealander, born in Auckland. His father was a guard on the railways, and he was mostly brought up in the King Country. He trained at Auckland Teacher’s College and Auckland University College and he taught at Taumarunui and Wesley College. He went to England after the war and was housemaster at Appleby Grammar School in the Lakes District before completing two missions with UNESCO in Germany, Finland and France in post-war Europe. He later credited these experiences along with influence from a London Methodist minister as having led him to choose a career in the Church. He returned to New Zealand, trained at College House in Christchurch, and was ordained into the Anglican Church 1953.
His first position was as a curate in Timaru, where he married Elaine Ruston. He was the first vicar of St Nicholas in Barrington before his appointment as vicar of Geraldine. They had three children Timothy, Jonathon and Melanie. Timothy died of a brain tumour when just 6 years, an event which shook Bob’s faith, and the marriage ended in divorce. He left Geraldine to become Director of Education for the diocese of Christchurch and in 1966 was appointed vicar of St Barnabas, Fendalton, where he was appointed Canon Lowe, and remained for 20 years.
By the time of his Fendalton appointment he had already appeared on radio and television and was writing a weekly column for the Woman’s Weekly. His television career included a satirical program “As I see it” and he achieved national following for his chat show “Open Pulpit.” His autobiography “That’s me without the tie” was published in 1974 and he successfully published a number of other books. He was described as New Zealand’s best after dinner speaker, but he also had his critics.
He looked back on his own life with some regret, He thought he could have used his many talents more for the glory of God than for his own amusement, but he never regretted making people laugh. To many he was an inspired and worldly orator who offered solace and distraction.
He was immensely popular in his parish of Fendalton and filled the pews each Sunday. He was considered overly fond of good food, drink and the opposite sex but will be remembered for his charm, eloquence and humanity.