OBITUARY: Col. Lowell H. Landre (Ret.)
January 20, 2012
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lowell Henry Landre died in comfort at his home in South Lake Tahoe, California on the morning of November 22, 2011. He was born in 1926 in Yakima, Washington, to Ralph Weston Landre, Sr. and Mary Josephine (Keesee) Landre.
The Landre family moved from Washington state during the depression seeking work in the fields and orchards of California. From humble beginnings as migrant workers, the family later owned a beautiful home on Depot Hill in Capitola, California, and a restaurant on that town’s beachside esplanade.
Lowell graduated from Santa Cruz High School, Santa Cruz, California, in 1943, thereafter furthering his education at the Municipal University of Omaha in Nebraska, the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Air War College. He also attended UCLA, North Texas Agricultural College, the University of Texas, and numerous other civilian and military educational institutions.
It was while attending UCLA that he met the love of his life, best friend, and wife of 64 years, the feisty and petite Rose Waszkiewicz, a proud girl of Polish descent, who had come to California from her hometown of Detroit, Michigan to work as a rivet-driller in the manufacture of airplanes for WWII. Rose Mary Waszkiewicz and Lowell Henry Landre were married by a Justice of the Peace in Wayne County, Michigan in June of 1945. They would spend the next seven decades traveling the world and raising their three boys, Lowell, Lance and Lee, together and apart, as the world’s battles shaped their lives.
Lowell served in such diverse locations as Indochina (before and during the Viet Nam war), Greenland, Puerto Rico, Panama, Japan, Europe, the Canadian Arctic Islands and numerous other classified locations. He also served with the armed forces of other nations and had multiple tours in the former Fort Ord complex (Forts Ord and Hunter Liggett and the Presidio of Monterey), Fort Bragg, NC and Fort Benning, GA. Among his awards and decorations, he particularly prized the Combat Infantryman badge and the Master Parachutist badge.
He also served as a senior military advisor to the Vietnamese city of Hue, nearly losing his life the night of January 31, 1968, when North Vietnamese troops broke a two-day holiday cease fire agreement and attacked the city during what is now known as the Tet Offensive. The loss of many of his fellow soldiers, and the shocking civilian massacre in the city, affected him for the rest of his life. Forever respectful of those who served our country and others, no matter their rank, he was a role model and mentor to his fellow soldiers throughout his military career and his life. He will be greatly missed by the local veterans’ community.
Between combat assignments, he specialized in military research and combat development. His duties in the military intelligence field and also in other classified postings required multiple linguistic capabilities. Learning languages was a life-long passion for Lowell. In addition to the English language, he spoke Russian, Vietnamese, Korean and Polish, and dabbled in many others. He delighted in surprising people he’d meet with a short conversation in their native tongue, whether it was Spanish, Hungarian, Mandarin or Hindi. One of his great joys was relating these stories to his family.
He retired from the U.S. Army in 1977 as a Colonel after 32 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy (WWII) and the U.S. Army. He was a parachute and glider infantry soldier, leader and commander. He received many U.S. and foreign decorations and awards and was wounded in combat multiple times. Among numerous decorations and presidential citations, he was the recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for Valor.
After leaving the military, Lowell assisted other military veterans with various governmental agencies. He also researched and developed a comprehensive family genealogy spanning more than 400 years. He was both an author and an artist. He was a sports parachutist and pilot and a founding member of the Parachute Club of America. A prolific and talented oil painter, he filled his home with beautiful images of the forests of the Sierra Nevadas, Bavaria, where he first learned to paint in a class offered for officer’s wives, and Alaska, where he and Rose lived for a decade while stationed at Fort Richardson.
Lowell had a soft spot for dogs of any shape or size and was never without a treat for them in his pocket. He loved to laugh, and treated everyone he encountered with respect. He loved learning and was relentless in his constant pursuit of self-improvement. He was a true gentleman and a consummate soldier. Lowell was loved profoundly by his family, and was a beacon of strength and support. Strengths and faults, successes and failures, there will never be anyone quite like him. Dad, Grandpa, Great-Grandpa and Great-Great Grandpa, we love you more than words can convey. We will see your smiling face in every flower, every star, every sunset, and every wagging tail.
Colonel Landre joins his loving wife Rose Waszkiewicz, who preceded him in death in 2009, somewhere in the stars overlooking us all. He is survived by his two sons, Lowell D. Landre of Tennessee and Lance H. Landre of California; four grandchildren, Tamara Landre, Nicolle Landre, Laura Clendenning and Michael Landre; six great-grandchildren, Kayleigh, Jessica, Justus, Dylan, Conor and Casey, and one great-great-grandchild, Milo. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Shirley (Foote) Landre, widow of his brother Ralph Weston Landre, Jr., and their sons, Tim, Jon and Jeff, and their families. He was preceded in death by his wife, his youngest son, Lee Raymond Landre, his oldest grandson, Christopher Shawn Landre, and his canine buddy Murphy.
Per his wishes, his ashes will be scattered at sea with those of the loved ones who preceded him.
Those wishing to honor Colonel Landre should reach out a hand to the next veteran they meet and thank him for his service, treat others with respect and kindness, and never, ever stop learning.