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Lowell E. Toreson


No. 20082 • Apr 20, 1933 - Feb 5, 2014        

Died in Durham, NC

Cremated. Interred in Chapel Hill Cemetery, NC


All the way across America from his home town of Berkeley, CA, Lowell Edmund Toreson came to West Point on July 5, 1950 just a few months after his 17 birthday. He had peach fuzz on his cheeks and dreams of military service in his heart.

He took to the life of a cadet with ease, as staying “pro” was not a major problem for this quiet but well-regarded young man. He was involved in cadet life and enjoyed activities offering trips to New York City. His service and attitude were acknowledged by his selection as the Corps Color Sergeant. Lowell was so proud that he was selected to carry the American flag, leading every parade during his senior year.

Upon graduation, Lowell was commissioned in the Field Artillery and reported, with many of his class, to Fort Sill, OK. After graduating from the FA Basic Officer Course, Lowell took the next step of major importance when he married Mary Ellen Hardin, the light of his life, on December 23, 1954 in California.

Lowell and Mary Ellen then travelled across the United States to his first assignment as a student in the U.S. Army’s Airborne School at Fort Benning, GA. Lowell succeeded in qualifying as a paratrooper and as a jumpmaster. Then he attended Ranger School.

Following Ranger School, Lowell and Mary Ellen travelled to their first duty station at Fort Lewis, WA. He was assigned to the 37th Artillery, a 105mm battalion. They “gyro-scoped” from Fort Lewis to Anchorage, AK in 1956, remaining there until 1959.

Lowell was accepted as a foreign area specialist. Turkey was his country of choice. After training at Princeton University from 1961 to 1962, he and his family went to Turkey where he served first in Ankara and then in Izmir. Lowell learned much about the Turkish people, language, government and geography by travelling all over the country as a passenger on local buses. Years later he enjoyed reminiscing about all of those bus trips.

In 1964 Lowell was selected as aide-de-camp to General John Michaelis, CGHALFSEE, in Turkey. He served in that position for two years. In 1966 he was assigned to USARV in South Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star medal for service there. He returned to the United States and attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS.

After graduating from C&GS, Lowell joined the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) with duty station in the Pentagon. The family purchased a new home near Springfield, VA, only two blocks from classmate Chuck Luce and his family. For the best part of three years, they carpooled to the Pentagon daily. As Chuck recalls, those 14-mile trips on the Shirley Highway (I-95) were an occasion for long conversations. On a good day it took 40 minutes; on a bad traffic day it could take over an hour and a half. Lowell and Chuck developed a plan during the morning drive to by-pass the traffic jams if possible. They picked out three exits along the way and, listening to the local radio station about the traffic conditions ahead, would take the best of the three exits to the Pentagon. They won some days and lost some days!

Lowell’s assignment at DIA was to monitor activities in Israel. Intelligence reports covering all kinds of activities flowed to his desk daily. Lowell was quick to realize that the Israelis would respond immediately to any military activity directed at them. During their long evening drives home, he would reflect on reports he had reviewed and predicted to Chuck that an Israeli response would be coming. Within a day or two, his prediction would come true.

It was during his time at DIA that Lowell noticed that he was experiencing some difficulties with telephone calls. He was losing his hearing. He got a special adapter attached to his phone which helped some.

In 1971 Lowell was assigned to HQ, 7th Corps Artillery in Germany. His family—wife Mary Ellen and their five daughters: Kathryn, Karen, Kirsten, Lynn and Laurie—joined him for this three-year tour. Lowell commanded the 3rd Battalion, 37th Field Artillery. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for this service.

Lowell’s final assignment was with the Army Reserve Regional Readiness Command. Lowell retired in 1974. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for service to his country.

Following his retirement, the family moved to Asheville, NC and then to Chapel Hill, NC, where he worked for the Migrant Seasonal Farm Workers Association. Lowell became a die-hard fan of the men’s basketball and women’s soccer teams at the University of North Carolina. He even became an usher at the home basketball games. Lowell spent much time reading, gardening and bird watching.

In 1978, the Toresons moved to San Luis Obispo, CA to care for Lowell’s mother, who had suffered a stroke. During this time, several of Lowell’s closest friends became concerned about his hearing loss and encouraged him to seek medical relief.

Medical science developed a new technique, the cochlear ear transplant, which corrected hearing loss like that which Lowell experienced. With the assistance from the staff of the University of San Francisco, Lowell and Mary Ellen made the transplant a reality in his life. His hearing improved greatly. Following his mother’s death in 2006, Lowell and Mary Ellen moved back to Chapel Hill.

Lowell was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the summer of 2013. He died peacefully on February 5, 2014. Lowell Edmund Toreson was buried with full military honors in the Chapel Hill Cemetery.

— Classmate and longtime friend


Originally published in TAPS 2015

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