Ron Lowney has been missing for three weeks.
His vehicle was found at a fishing access site near Three Forks. It had been there since April 10.
While we hope for the best, we fear for, and probably even expect, the worst.
His absence is already being felt as we make our way through the high school spring sports season. As the Bulldogs and Maroons compete, we definitely get the sense that something is missing.
Mr. Lowney has been a fixture at sporting events in the Mining City for many years.
If you don’t think you know who Mr. Lowney is, you have certainly heard him cheering on the Bulldogs, Maroons and Orediggers if you have attended even one game.
You might even roll your eyes as you hear his cheers, and you are not alone.
While his enthusiasm was unrivaled, Mr. Lowney’s method is unusual to say the least.
He makes some people uncomfortable with his Music Man approach to the games he attends and to life itself.
If you run into him in the store, he will give your child a dollar and he might break out into song. It seems pretty weird to almost everyone but Mr. Lowney.
But, as Annie Savoy said in Bull Durham, “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”
Really, though, that lack of awareness is an enviable quality that most would love to possess.
Many of us say we don’t care what people think of us, but how many of us truly feel that way? How nice would it be to literally sing and dance like nobody is watching in the checkout line at Walmart?
At the games, Mr. Lowney is probably known most for his cheers for free throws.
“Over the rim, down and in,” he says before a local player gets off a free throw shot. Everybody in the arena can hear it, whether it’s the Butte Civic Center, Maroon Activities Center, Richardson Gym or HPER Complex.
If the first free throw is good, Mr. Lowney will follow up with, “Over the rim, do it again.”
Sure, that seems like a pretty simplistic approach to making free throws, and the repetition can get a little annoying. But it sure beats the heck out of hearing fans scream at the officials all game long.
At least once per game, Mr. Lowney will inevitably break into a cheer like he is a cheerleader from the 1950s.
“Two … four … six … eight …”
Mr. Lowney supports the local teams with his wallet, as well.
Several games a year, you will see him pull out a $100 bill and give it to the home team. When Western Bulldogs, his alma mater, come to town, he donates to both sides.
After watching the first game of a doubleheader, it is not uncommon for Mr. Lowney to give the home coach a Benjamin to buy the girls lunch.
Sometimes, Mr. Lowney will ride the officials at a college basketball game, but not during a high school contest. He will also go out of his way to thank the men and women in stripes for doing what they do.
He does that almost every game. No other fan does it once.
Mr. Lowney is so positive that he even cheers for the Orediggers’ mascot, Charlie Oredigger. “Hey, Charlie,” he says, often pronouncing Charlie with a foreign accent.
At the end of games, if the home team wins or loses, Mr. Lowney ends the night by yelling, “Nice job by both sides.”
Before he retired, Mr. Lowney was a longtime elementary teach in Butte. He would never miss a football game, basketball game, volleyball match, track meet or dance recital if any of his students were involved.
Those students would always know Mr. Lowney was there, too, and most of them appreciated it.
This school year, however, things quieted down quite a bit.
Mr. Lowney was still there to show his support at almost every basketball game. He also continued to open his wallet.
But he was clearly not the same. Something was obviously bothering him. He was not as loud, and you could see sadness in his eyes.
During the Southwestern A District basketball tournament at the MAC, Mr. Lowney, whom I have known for as long as I can remember, sat down beside me and we had a long talk.
“Ron, are you doing OK?” I asked.
He was puzzled by the question, yet he also seemed to welcome it.
“Why do you ask, Fol?” he said.
He is the only person who calls me “Fol.” I usually called him “Mr. Lowney.”
“You just don’t seem like yourself,” I said. “You seem like you are sad.”
I think he was looking for someone to talk to for a while. He told me his Golden Retriever that walked with him 10 miles every day had recently died, but that was not all that was bothering him.
Mr. Lowney was heartbroken. He told me about it in great detail, though he asked me to keep those details between us.
“Hang in there,” I said. “You’re a good guy, and things will work out.”
Unfortunately, he did not seem to believe that they would.
Sadly, that is why his disappearance did not come as a surprise. That is why I fear for and expect the worst. That is why I dread opening the internet browser every day.
Mr. Lowney surely is a complex figure in our town. Many view him as weird or at least a bit odd. Many are not sure how to take him when they encounter him at a game or at the store.
He makes many feel uncomfortable.
For the most part, though, everyone also agrees Mr. Lowney’s his heart is always in the right place. While his cheering is unusual and awkward, his support is always genuine.
I have been to a lot of games in town. It’s my job.
I never seen anyone at more of those game than Mr. Lowney these last few years, when he stepped up his cheering game. He would watch Butte High, Butte Central and Tech play all in the same day.
He would at least make some of each game.
Thanks to his lack of self-awareness, he was almost always sitting by himself. Not many people want to sit next to a guy who will suddenly break out in song in a quite gym.
So, as we struggle with understanding the complex Mr. Lowney at what could be the end of his run, we should choose to emphasize those positives.
Let us focus on his support for the Butte teams and the Butte kids.
If every adult in town supported the youth of Butte even a tenth as much as Mr. Lowney always does, we would have to build a new Civic Center.
The old one would be way too small.