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
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
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
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
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
— Classmate and longtime friend