Our Feisty Red-Headed Island Gal

During June 1935 on the Bahamian settlement of Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, William Albert Lowe and wife Annie Estelle Curry gave birth to a little red-head daughter Iva Alice Lowe.   Iva stated that her mother Annie lost her first child, a boy.  Albert and Annie would be blessed with four surviving children: Vertrum, Iva, Alton and Leonard.  Iva recalled…

Daddy was a carpenter and a painter.  He also cut hair.  He fished, sponged, crawfished…worked at anything to make money.  He went with the oil rig when it came to the Bahamas.  Sometime he would be gone for six months.

Albert and Annie’s home sat at the water’s edge of New Plymouth just around the corner from where my Dad John Wesley Lowe was born (son of Howard Lowe and Bessie Curry).  Coincidentally both my Dad’s parents and Iva’s parents were unions of Lowe and Curry families.

GTC Birthplace

Iva recounted how her mother taught her and older brother Vertrum their ABC’s and to count from 1 to 100.  The siblings learned to spell three letter words before mother Annie sent them to the Green Turtle Cay All Age School under the supervision of Herbert Roberts, Amy Roberts and later Jack Ford.  

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Green Turtle Cay’s All Age School under the direction of Jack Ford and Amy Roberts.

During one of my  home visits with Iva, she proudly revealed the photo above and asked me to ‘pick her out.’  Her glowing red hair beside teacher Ms. Amy made it an easy task for me.  Iva then increased the challenge, ‘Now can you find your Dad’s sister Janet?’  I needed her help now.  She proudly and gladly pointed her out to me.

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Iva Lowe Scholtka (L) and Alice Gates Abury (R)  – classmates in school – circa 1951

Green Turtle Cay classmate Jettie Key Lowe gives a particular Girl Guide memory that always brought laughter between her and Iva.  Under English Leader Mr. Walter Kendrick, Girl Guides Iva and Jettie were paired together to participate in a cooking competition.  The dish they chose to prepare (with help from their moms) was an island favorite, minced crawfish.  In their setting the table, Iva dropped the serving utensil.  These budding chefs came in second place.  Iva now chuckled, “You know what Jettie, we would have won first place if I hadn’t dropped that fork!”

Iva would venture down a foot-trodden alley behind their house to visit with ‘Ms. Bessie’, my grandmother.  Iva reminisced that she admired two glass blue vases widower Bessie displayed in her modest home…perhaps a wedding gift or a travel souvenir from her late seaman husband Howard.  

During an era when young men like Donald Saunders, Anthony Roberts and my Dad John Lowe, all Curry cousins, moved to Nassau for employment, Iva pioneered herself into that same category.  In a move she termed borderline “scandalous,” Iva left Green Turtle Cay in the late 1950’s to pursue a career in Nassau.

There wasn’t anything to do on the Cay.  When I was 21, I went to Nassau to see the dentist.  A native Spanish Wells gentlemen, Clyde Roberts M.B.E. was the assistant to the Registrar General in Nassau.  He asked one his employees Pauline Curry if she knew anyone with good handwriting that needed a job.

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Pauline Albury Curry (L) and Iva Lowe Scholtka (R)

Pauline and I were close friends, and she recommended me.  Jettie Key Lowe also worked there.  I made 8 pounds 10 schillings a week.  We had to write every document by hand!

The Registry was located on the second floor above the Post Office on Bay Street and Parliament Street.  Looking out of the south window you could see the Nassau Public Library.  Iva told of meeting my maternal grandmother’s sister Gwendolyn Griffin during this period.  A native of Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, Aunt Gwen was the head librarian for the historic octagon library that was formerly a jail.   These two sophisticated working women shared stories of their out island heritage.  Iva said… 

Ms. Griffin was such a darlin’.  At least three times a week, during my lunch hour I would visit her at the library.  I loved books.  I loved the smell of books.  Ms. Griffin would show me the latest books and the best books to read.  She was a charming lady – always well-dressed and neat as a pin.  In conversation I found out her connection to John Lowe (my Dad), and we became great friends.

One day Mr. Archie Taylor wrote Iva a letter to inquire if she would consider employment with Taylor Industries Limited.   Originally located on Bay Street, Taylor Industries was founded in 1945 by cousins Charles and Archie Taylor. In the late 1950’s the store relocated to its present day location on Shirley Street.  Mr. Taylor enticed Iva with a weekly salary of 10 pounds.  Iva devoted almost twenty years to Taylor Industries as an accountant, a passion that she and I shared.  She refined her skills by taking classes at night.  At Taylors she recalled…

I did the books for the gas cylinders first.  Then I transferred to the accounts department.  We were in the electrical business – sold appliances as well.  We had a beautiful system at Taylors.  I posted accounts receivable by hand.  I wrote everything by hand in all the ledgers.

She was loved and respected by her co-workers, especially those in the accounting department, including my cousin Sonia Johnson Rowan Marvin and Edna Malone Kemp.

Iva stayed in close contact with my dad and his sister Janet.  These Green Turtle Cay cousins now immersed in Nassau city-life enjoyed every opportunity to reminisce of their out island childhood days. 

Iva recounted to me the day that my parents John and Doreen Lowe purchased an oil painting from her brother Alton.  Her eyes beamed as she relished the sumptuous signature dinner that followed which Mom prepared – baked shellfish. 

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L to R – Alton Lowe, Iva Lowe Scholtka, Doreen Lowe, John Lowe

Iva and my Dad’s sister Janet were like sisters.  Aunt Janet selected Iva to be her maid of honor at their wedding in Nassau, Bahamas.  These Green Turtle Cay cousins remained in close contact even when Iva relocated to the United States.

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L to R – Iva Lowe Scholtka, Janet Lowe Sjahri, Alik Sjahri, Iris Lowe Powers.  1974

When Iva’s youngest brother Leonard married an American from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she would travel overseas to visit.  During these times, she was introduced to James ‘Jim’ Lawrence Scholtka born in 1926 to  Clarence and Hazel Scholtka.  Jim graduated from Wauwatosa High School in 1944 and joined the US Navy  He served his country in World War II.  The couple fell in love and married on May 28th 1977 in Milwaukee. 

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Jim worked for equipment manufacturer Allis Chalmers in Wisconsin from 1948-1988.  He was a quiet man.  After he retired, the couple relocated to Boca Raton, Florida to enjoy warmer weather.  In winter months they enjoyed Iva’s Green Turtle Cay birthplace.

Iva & Jim
Iva Lowe Scholtka and James Scholtka in Green Turtle Cay, Abaco.  Photo creds:  Gloria Chiodo

Joy Lowe Jossi remembers…

Iva entertained royally with natural grace. I loved her descriptive words. A favorite still makes me roar inwardly because of her unique manner, ‘She was a pepper!’ Said with Iva’s love-flavor, her crystal clear word picture made me comprehend the spice of a long-gone person.

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Iva Lowe Schultka (L) with cousin Rosemarie Saunders (R) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo creds:  Mandy Roberts

Iva loved people and enjoyed connecting cousins.  I have met so many wonderful Bahamian cousins as a result.  One such cousin, Amanda ‘Mandy’ Gates Roberts shared the following… 

My favorite memories with Aunt Iva would include visits with her and Uncle Jim in Boca Raton, Florida. Whether we had dinner on the screened-in porch or at a local restaurant, our conversation was always happy.  She always had a good joke to share that resulted in belly laughs.

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Iva Lowe Scholtka (L) and Amanda Gates Roberts (R) Circa 1981.  Photo creds:  Mandy Roberts

We reminisced about the earlier years in the Bahamas and all her Green Turtle Cay and Nassau experiences.  Sometimes if we had shopped all day, we would crash at her house for dessert. Uncle Jim’s favorite was ice cream with hot fudge!  He always looked forward to our visits and he loved his desserts! We would recount the day’s events and shopping finds from department stores including Macy’s and J.C. Penney’s.

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Iva Lowe Scholtka (L) and Amanda Gates Roberts (R) in Boca Raton, Florida.  Photo creds:  Mandy Roberts
Vivian Saunders and Iva
Vivian Russell Saunders (L) and Iva Lowe Scholtka (R) in Boca Raton, Florida.  Photo creds:  Mandy Roberts

Whether by phone or in person, every conversation with Iva lovingly evolved into a reminiscing session of her delightful life on Green Turtle Cay.  I took notes.  Her vivid and detailed insights have brought zest to several of my blog posts. 

During a 2015 visit to her home in Boca Raton, Florida, she excused herself from our living room conversation and returned with the striking photo below.  Iva grinned as she proudly proved to me that her now silver hair was once fiery red.  We laughed together. 

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One of my favorite visits was 2017 New Years Day.  With the kids on Christmas break, my wife and I  decided to take the crew to meet Iva and Jim in Boca Raton, Florida.  Iva thought the world of Dad – the feeling was mutual.  Not surprisingly, she extended the same affection to Dad’s children and now his grandchildren. My kids loved her British dialect and witty humor.  When Dad passed away in 2013, Iva remained in regular contact with Mom.  She was clearly motivated by her love of people and not material possessions. 

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Bahamian Gals – L to R – Iva Lowe Scholtka, Doreen Lowe, Irene Gates Lowe

Iva loved family celebrations.  She planned to attend my daughter’s wedding in Jupiter, Florida in July 2017.  She was so excited to also meet our latest addition to the family, Owen born a few months earlier. 

However, in May 2017, Iva suffered a fall and was hospitalized.  For over a year, she faced adversity in the hospital and rehabilitation center.  The pain and suffering could not suppress the twinkle in her eye and her signature smile.  Her island charm embraced all who tended with care and stepped in for a visit.

My wife and I brought one-year-old Owen to meet Iva while in the rehabilitation center.  This surprised visit filled her heart with joy.  She fondly referred to him as ‘little man’ in our conversations over the next few months.  A few days before she passed away on August 6, 2018, I held her frail hand.  She whispered in my ear, ‘I love you.  Give that little man and all those kids a kiss.’

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Excerpts from the eulogy Goodbye English Rose by niece Kristina Lowe

The definition of an English Rose is a very pretty English girl who tends to wear little or no make-up, has pale rosy cheeks, natural hair and is well spoken and ladylike.  These are all the characteristics that describe my Aunt to a tee, and why I affectionately called her my English Rose, that and her love of roses, England, and all things Royal too of course.  She would have fit in perfectly in high society and I hope she is having an elegant Royal tea party right now as she watches over all of us celebrating her life and remembering how much she was loved and will be missed here on Earth.

Yet through it all, her love and caring for her family and friends remained her focus, and in so many, many ways, she was able to show that love to us. This perseverance through adversity is a powerful lesson for us, and I believe it is her legacy. What wonderful lessons she gave us.

  • Keep your priorities straight.
  • Keep that which is most important in focus.
  • Love and care for your family and friends. Let them know in every way you can that you love them
  • Never let adversities or setbacks or any of the distractions in this world keep you from this most important aspect in your life.

My Aunt Iva was a very special lady who became my second mother. She had a big impact on my life. Iva had no need for airs and graces – what you saw was what you got and what you got was a big warm smile – genuine and full of love.

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Iva Lowe Scholtka with her Niece Kristina Lowe and husband Adrian Lowe

She had strong principles that she believed in and lived by every day of her life, but she was never judgmental and loved people for what they were.  She was slow to anger and quick to understand.

Everyone who knew her, loved her.  Iva would welcome everyone into her home with open arms, plenty of food, and you were guaranteed a good story, most likely one you had already heard.

Iva saw the good in everything and encouraged others to do the same.  Her actions and character are behaviors that should be emulated by all of us.  She was a true role model, a person we should try to imitate. My Auntie cared deeply for everyone she knew, whether family, friend or just a member of the community. She had the kindest heart of anyone I knew.  She has touched the lives of so many people, and even though she is gone, her memories will live on in our hearts forever.  She will always be by our side and will be forever missed.  Her inspirational spirit gave us strength in the time of trouble, wisdom in the time of uncertainty, and sharing in the time of happiness, and a full belly of empty calories if none of her other words of wisdom did the trick!

Although she never had any biological children of her own, she had no need because everyone she came in contact with was treated like they belonged to her.  She was everyone’s friend, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt or cousin.

Iva’s memorial service program shown below, compliments of Randy Curry.

Funeral 1Funeral 2Funeral 3Funeral 4Funeral 5Funeral 6Funeral 7Funeral 8

 

 

 

 

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