Veteran with cancer returns to MSU decades later

EAST LANSING, MICH. - Richard Lowe, 75, was decades overdue for a boys' weekend at Michigan State University.

Richard's son, Steve, has talked for years about a family visit to his father's alma mater. Those plans gained a sense of urgency after Richard was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.

Richard, who lives in Oviedo, Florida, has stage 4 metastatic melanoma.

"We just don't know how much time he has," said Richard's stepson, Greg Brooke. "It's as much for us as it is for him."

On Fathers' Day this year, the sons finally surprised with Richard with arrangements for the trip.

"I was dumbfounded," Richard said. "I mean, I was really happy. Of course, I didn't know what to expect. It's been unbelievable because everything is different."

Richard, an Army veteran, spent Friday at his old stamping grounds, including Demonstration Hall, the building that houses the Spartan Battalion of the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

The Spartan Battalion and MSU Residential and Housing Services arranged the tour.

It was Richard's first time on campus since 1968.

The retired Army colonel said Grand River Avenue has become more bustling, but he was pleased to hear ROTC cadets still have to get up for early-morning drills.

Richard graduated in 1964 with a major in arts and letters.

"Arts and letters — I guess that prepared me to make signs for a living," he joked.

A former member of the MSU swim team, Richard is a die-hard Spartan fan. The highlight of his visit will be a football game Saturday against Penn State.

"We are going to the football game no matter what," Brooke said. "If it does rain, we'll get wet."

It's important for Richard to stay active, and his sons believe the trip has served as a motivator.

Before he was diagnosed with cancer, Richard golfed and ran three to six miles every day.

"He'd make us look us look silly because he's our dad and he's kicking our butts at basketball," Steve said.

Richard still mows the lawn at his Florida home, but the side effects of his treatment make physical activity difficult.

He walks with a stoop because of bone loss and has trouble with his memory.

"I think this whole illness has been tough on him mentally more than anything," Steve said "Because, you know, he's a proud Army vet."

The sons realize this could be their father's last chance to visit campus.

But, they're still holding hope that he'll survive for years to come.

"Why did it come to health issues before we did this?" Brooke said. "It's kind of a shame we waited, but we're glad we had the opportunity. Maybe we can make this an annual thing."

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© 2017, Lansing State Journal


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