Toting American flags, hundreds of students from Brother Rice and Mother McAuley high schools, plus residents and other supporters, lined Pulaski Road and 99th Street on the South Side Friday morning to honor fallen Marine Cpl. Conner Lowry as his body was transported through his neighborhood en route to St. John Fisher Church in Beverly.
Lowry was killed in action in Afghanistan on March 1.
Flanked by police cars, motorcycles and members of the Illinois Patriot Guard, the procession stopped in front of Lowry’s alma mater, Brother Rice, where senior James Habisohn played Taps on the trumpet. Lowry’s mother, Modie Lavin, and his sister, Grace Lavin, exited their limousine and hugged a teacher and the school president before returning to the car.
“This is what the South Side does,” spectator John Zawaski, whose two sons went to Brother Rice, said of the turnout. “This is a special event for a special person.”
“I think it’s to show that his life was not taken in vain and that we support our military,” said Brother Rice alum and board member Brian Coughlin. “It’s for students to realize that this happened to Conner and his death meant something.”
Oak Lawn resident Matthew Howe, who graduated from Rice in 1969, stood on Pulaski carrying a Marine banner. His youngest son, Michael Hughes, also a Marine, knew Lowry.
“We’re Americans,” Howe said, choking up. “He gave it all and we need to give him the respect he needs. Thank you, Conner.”
Brother Rice alum Tim Nawrocki played football with Lowry and was a leader at a Kairos retreat with him.
“He’s a great friend, a great kid, and truly one of a kind,” Nawrocki said. “This shows how much he meant to everybody and how much the community cares about each other.”
Tim Barry, a junior at the school, was one of hundreds among his classmates who paid tribute to Lowry.
“We’re all in it together as Crusaders,” Barry said.
Dominick Kearns, representing the Chicago Police Marine Corps League, said one of the group’s members donated $25,000 to Rice in tribute to Lowry. The money will create a student scholarship, which will help cover tuition for the sons of any Marine who is honorably discharged.
“We think it’s important to honor our own,” Kearns said. “Not just this day, but many years into the future.”
A man with a T-shirt bearing a shamrock and the colors of the Irish flag was seen walking nearby. The T-shirt, making reference to Sunday’s South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade – but paying tribute to Lowry – said, “Conner’s parade.”
A jet bearing Lowry’s body landed at Midway Airport on Friday morning. The procession to St. John Fisher wound through several neighborhoods, including Mount Greenwood and Beverly. Visitation was to set for 2 to 9 p.m. at St. John Fisher, 10234 S. Washtenaw Ave., Chicago.
A funeral Mass will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the church.
A 2006 graduate of Rice, Lowry enlisted in the Marines in 2008. He was to be discharged in four months.
Last week, Lowry was described by his family as someone who decided he wanted to leave college to enlist in the military because he thought it would help the country and be good for him as well.
Family members say he was proud to be in the Marines and that he was looking forward to being discharged in a few months. After his service, he hoped to get a job with the Chicago Fire Department.