One of the industry’s pre-eminent experts and educators in pool/spa chemistry has died.
Robert Lowry passed away the night of Nov. 17 or early morning Nov. 18 in Lima, Peru, where he lived. He was 75 and had suffered a long illness.
In his career as a manufacturer, Lowry developed 111 new chemistry products to the pool/spa field. Throughout his time in the industry he taught courses, mostly geared to service technicians. He wrote 21 books about pool and spa chemistry, including three training manuals for the Independent Pool and Spa Association. He also published more than 175 technical articles.
Before entering the industry, Lowry served in the Vietnam war and was distinguished as one of the youngest Green Berets at the age of 18. He commanded a squad by 19. He was captured as a prisoner of war before being rescued by members of his squadron.
Following his military service, he earned a degree in chemistry. He joined the pool industry in 1973.
To help him understand what kinds of products would be most helpful in the field, Lowry worked for two to three months alongside a service professional, doing ride-alongs and caring for pools himself. “He wanted to have a hands-on approach and know what he was talking about,” said Terry Arko, product training content manager with HASA, based in Saugus, Calif. “That’s how much that meant to him.”
Lowry co-founded and co-owned Leisure Time Chemical. The many products he developed included liquid cyanuric acid, which simplified maintenance by eliminating the need to dissolve the granular form.
Lowry also was technology officer for DEL Ozone at one time, and he served as a consultant to industry companies such as Natural Chemistry, LaMotte, ITS, Pentair and Jacuzzi, along with several major corporations that operate outside the pool/spa realm, such as DuPont, Olin, and Nalco.
As accomplished a chemist as he was, Lowry may best be remembered for his contribution to the education of pool and spa service technicians. A friend of Lowry’s, Arko took one of his classes early in his own career as a service professional in Southern California. While much of the chemistry-related information was geared toward other scientists, Lowry strove to make his education more accessible to industry professionals.
“This wasn’t academia stuff that was beyond what anybody could comprehend,” Arko said. “This was practical, helpful, basic water chemistry techniques.”
Lowry quickly became a mainstay at service-oriented events such as the Western Pool and Spa Show and Pool Industry Expo.
“His classes were always full, and he always made himself available to anyone for questions or to help,” Arko said.
Later in his career, Lowry continued looking for ways to make pool/spa water maintenance easier and more effective. In 2018, he released a book called, Pool Chemistry for Service Pros. That year, he and surface specialist Greg Garret began an education and certification program called the Pool Chemistry Training Institute (PCTI) based on the book. Not only did the volume provide a comprehensive look at how to maintain water in residential pools and spas, but it introduced some innovative approaches that included aiming for target levels for parameters such as pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness and CYA, rather than ranges; using aeration to help control pH; incorporating borate into the maintenance routine; and calculating chlorine residuals as a based on a percentage of CYA.
After Garrett’s death in 2019, Lowry continued with PCTI, occasionally traveling to the U.S. from his home in Peru to teach in various locations. Before Lowry’s passing, chemical manufacturer HASA took over the rights to conduct the institute, Arko said
“He was very intelligent — way above and beyond me,” Arko recalled. “That being said, he was one of the most down-to-earth, gracious, most friendly and patient guys questions, and just helping with things.”