The Lowe family is devoted to carrying out their son and brother's mission of #FallForward
When the high school marching band performs at a funeral, you know this person has made quite an impact on the community. Likewise, when 700 people pack the church sanctuary during a torrential downpour, you know this is someone special.
Family and friends gathered Thursday, Aug. 3, at First Baptist Church Windermere to say goodbye to Hudson Lowe, a 20-year-old musician, water sports enthusiast and Rubik's Cube master from Ocoee who had just finished his sophomore year at Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton.
Hudson was the kind of person with whom everyone wanted to be friends. He was handsome and friendly, charming and funny, innovative and talented. He had a way of making his friends and family feel important and loved.
“He was so interested in everyone,” said his mother, Chris Lowe. “Every single person he met, he was their best friend. … He did everything with passion, but when people would talk about what he's doing, they would talk about HIM with passion.”
“His heart was in everything,” his older sister, Dakota, said. “That's what we'll remember.”
The two-and-one-half-hour celebration of Hudson's life was just as he would have wanted it: a big party, Chris said. Attendees included OHS classmates and FAU fraternity brothers, people he met who shared his vision for a cleaner world, friends who vow to carry out his mission of saving the world through energy conservation and climate change prevention.
Hudson loved candlelight services, so friends held flickering candles while his cousin played on his guitar a medley of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.”
His mother said the evening’s wet weather was appropriate, as Hudson loved marching and playing in the pouring rain while in high school.
Bernie Hendricks, band director at Ocoee High, said that after hearing about Hudson’s death, he knew a musical tribute needed to be done.
“When I went to visit (Hudson’s mother), the very first thing she said was, ‘We need that band there; he loved you and loved being in the Ocoee band. Those were the best four years of his life,’” Hendricks said. “It was an honor and privilege for myself and the students to do it.”
Teenagers were quick to get involved.
“Amazingly, we had a large portion of students that had no idea who Hudson was, but they wanted to be a part of the event, just because,” Hendricks said. “We also had a good number of alumni band members that felt this was the best way to say goodbye to their friend and classmate.
“I think that one of the things Hudson liked the most in life is seeing other people smile,” Hendricks said. “I am cherishing every moment and thankful that Hudson is a part of this band family that we have here at Ocoee High School. This young man has a special place in the history of our school, and his legacy will live on for years to come.”
Following the funeral service, those in attendance were asked to take home a slash pine tree seedling to plant or a green-painted rock with the words #FallForward.
Hudson loved spending time on the lake with friends. On Saturday, Aug. 5, his loved ones gathered in boats at the center of Lake Olympia for his final Lake Day, and they sprinkled his ashes on the water. “The Dragonfly Story” was read, and Randy Lowe, Hudson’s father, asked everyone to “Fall Forward for Hudson.”
A GROWING PASSION
Hudson was passionate about the environment and sustainable energy.
It all started at Ocoee High School when he signed up for an AP environmental science class.
“When he took that class, it changed everything,” Dakota said.
“If you want to get something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done: fall forward” — Hudson Lowe
He became an advocate for renewable energy, even making presentations to the Orange County School Board in a push for the installation of solar panels on schools.
He posted small green stickers on nearly every light switch in the school, a reminder to turn off the lights when leaving the room.
“To me, it is a reminder of the little things one can do to help save our planet and a reminder of the big plan that this young man had to actually make this world a better place,” Hendricks said.
His mother said he was always thinking, always looking to find a solution to problems.
“He would Google Earth the trees and map it then and now to see how many trees there were in the area then as opposed to now,” she said, as he was troubled by deforestation.
He wrote blogs about human trafficking and solar initiatives.
And he was quite the entrepreneur. While still in high school, he became a home-energy rater. He built circuit boards for a neighbor, sometimes making $200 in a day. After meeting a man with a pressure-washing business, Hudson bought a pressure washer and started his own business, bringing in $1,000 in one weekend.
He created a hover board out of plywood and a leaf blower because it was fun. He made solar cookers because he wanted to help others.
He was founder and president of the school’s Ocoee Green Initiative, which tackled small projects to reduce the campus’s environmental footprint.
“How many high school students do you know that have planned, organized and actually managed a campus-wide event all based on saving/protecting the environment?” Hendricks said. “(He set up) information booths about solar energy, recycling, just all kinds of stuff that the average teenager has absolutely NO idea about.
“He was passionate, and he pursued and demonstrated his great passion on a daily basis,” Hendricks said.
College allowed him an opportunity to take his efforts even further. He was majoring in engineering and was part of the FAU Mission Green Association, the Climate Reality Training Corps and the nonprofit organization IDEAS For Us. He traveled to Iceland to work on a sustainability project, and he went to Vietnam and Hong Kong for a global leadership symposium.
CONTINUING HUDSON'S LEGACY
Dakota Lowe said her brother wanted to start a wind-energy company, a solar company and a nonprofit organization, and it’s the family’s mission to see these dreams realized. He was interested in sustainable agriculture and bicycle-powered urban farming; he was concerned about climate change.
Hudson left behind a notebook that outlined his plans and details of what he wanted to accomplish.
“We’ve got a lot to do,” Dakota said. “There was a lot he wanted to do, but he left us the ideas of what to do with it.”
The Lowes hope to work with IDEAS For Us to establish micro-grants that focus on sustainable energy and conservation and donate in Hudson’s name. The family has contacted the Department of Energy about donating exhibits and educational materials to Ocoee schools to educate students.
Dakota said local students have taken up Hudson’s cause and are continuing his desire to have schools outfitted with solar panels. An account has been set up at gofundme.com/fall-forward-for-hudson-lowe. Donations will help carry out Hudson’s passions of energy conservation and climate change prevention and education.
Nearly $11,000 was raised in eight days. His family attributes that to Hudson’s bigger-than-life personality and his ability to touch everyone he met.
Thomas De Maio, the president of FAU’s Delta Tau Delta, was drawn to him immediately during fraternity pledge week and gave Hudson a gold card, which gave him automatic brotherhood. The two spent many hours sharing dreams and plans and talking about hypothetical situations while music played in the background.
They took the 10-day United Nations-sponsored trip to Asia together, meeting like-minded people from all over the globe. De Maio said when those at the conference heard about Hudson’s death, they reached out immediately.
“It was people from all over the world who can’t articulate in English, but they’re trying to sum up (their feelings),” De Maio said. “It’s all over the world. It’s not just felt here.”
De Maio recalls trips to the beach and watching Hudson, garbage bag in hand, picking up trash. Hudson liked to organize Adopt-A-Road cleanups, too.
There are plans to plant a tree from Hudson’s memorial on the FAU campus. The fraternity wants to organize a huge beach cleanup, as well.
“People can be passionate, but you have to get people to act,” his friend said.
And Hudson was the type of person who had that ability.
In his award-winning speech with the Florida Association of Student Councils, Hudson urged people to fall forward in life instead of falling backward and wallowing in past mistakes.
“(Abraham) Lincoln and (Thomas) Edison are a few of the countless leaders who fell flat on their face before reaching success,” Hudson said in his 2015 speech. But they succeeded because they fell forward.
“You will change the world solely because the world has failed to change you,” Hudson said. “I have a question for you, leaders of the world: Which way will you fall?”
Contact Amy Quesinberry at [email protected].