Lowell Lunden, 1942-2016
In his final months, even while undergoing treatment for esophageal and bone cancer, one of Lowell’s favorite things to do was tell funny stories about his grandkids. Like the time three-year-old Luke saw him using a wheelchair for the first time and exclaimed, “Grandpa’s got a stroller!” Or the time Leah, who was five, told her classmates that her grandfather was the Quaker man.
Lowell did indeed spend his career working for Quaker Oats, first in Chicago in 1970, then transferring to Quaker Oats Canada in 1971—and Leah had good reason to believe her grandfather was the Quaker man, as he kept in his home office an oatmeal canister bearing a picture of himself dressed up as the signature icon.
Raised on the plains of North Dakota by a grocer and a schoolteacher, he attended the University of Chicago on a full scholarship, earning his MBA in Marketing. He served for three years during the Vietnam War as a comptroller in the US Army Medical Services Corp in San Antonio, Texas.
He married DeAnna Buer in 1964, and they had two children together, Jennifer, born in 1967, and Jason, born in 1973. He was a single dad for two years after their divorce, and then married Linda Holbrook in 1981 and gained two more daughters, Jennifer and Julie. In 1977 he officially gave up his American citizenship to become a Canadian.
At Quaker Oats Canada, he started out as a brand manager and worked his way up to Manager of Marketing Services, where he built “an outstanding reputation in the industry,” in the words of his former boss—for his passion, his leadership, his integrity, his intelligence, his self-deprecating sense of humor, and his hearty laugh. In 1995, at the age of 56, just four years after the World Wide Web became publicly available, Lowell took it upon himself to learn everything he could about how the Internet could be used for marketing. At his laughter-filled retirement dinner in 1998, one of his colleagues said that he always walked into the room as if he had just won the lottery. Indeed, even to the very end, he often told people what a lucky guy he was.
He played tennis in summer and squash in winter, and continued to do so even after suffering a minor stroke that caused him to lose his left peripheral vision in both eyes. He described his squash style as “aggressive but unorthodox” even before the stroke, and always emphasized that he just loved to play the game. He and Linda had many friends and kept a busy social calendar, attending concerts and plays, sharing meals together, cycling, and traveling.
Lowell faced his cancer, and the pain that went with it, with positivity and good humor. His attitude was infectious, and many friends and loved ones streamed to the house or to the hospital for visits for the many months of his decline. He frequently expressed gratitude for having such good doctors and such good care, and once told one of his daughters that he hoped to get a few months more because “we’re still having a lot of laughs.” He liked to tell people about the time he was in a car accident in the car wash, or the time he tried to sell his old bedroom set at auction, bid on the set himself to try to get the auction going, and wound up buying his own bedroom set.
He is survived by his wife Linda Lunden; his children Jennifer Lunden, Jason Lunden, Jennifer Holbrook, Julie McCartney; his sister Jule Anne Light and brother Larry Lunden; his grandkids Finn and Adele Lunden, Reed Chamberlain and Luke Scott, and Stella and Leah McCartney; and many, many friends.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he said he wanted to be remembered for his laugh, and for loving his family. “That’s enough,” he said. He was 74.