If you are a Hardin County sports fan, you knew Gary Lowe.
You may have never met him, or seen his face, but you knew his voice.
Because every Hardin County sports fan knew Gary Lowe’s voice.
Lowe, who passed away on July 8th at 59, was the sports director for 95.3 WKTN for 31 years, but that doesn’t begin to tell his story.
I came to Kenton in 1996, and right from the get-go, when Gary’s name came up, I basically heard two things. First, “What is Gary still doing here? He could be so much bigger than this!” The other thing I heard was “We are so grateful Gary is still around!”
And both comments were correct.
I sat beside Gary in the press box for over 15 years, and broadcast with him for 10 years on WKTN, so I had a front-row seat to his excellence. And he was excellent. Every game was a big game to Gary, be it the season-opening football game or the basketball state championships, and he took great pride in putting together a top-notch broadcast each time he went on the air.
Gary could have gone on to “bigger and better” things, but that never happened. Why? Because to Gary, calling high-school sports in Hardin County was the best job on Earth.
A 1976 graduate of Kenton High School, Gary headed to Marietta College for a year and then came back home and never left. Because the thing you have to understand is this — Gary loved Hardin County, and Hardin County loved him right back.
Over the years, throughout the county, I have had countless fans say “I grew up listening to Gary Lowe on the radio” or “My grandparents couldn’t make it to the game, but they got to listen to Gary and that was just as good” or “It was such a thrill to have Gary Lowe call one of my games.”
Like I said, they loved Gary in these parts, and Gary loved them right back. A great source of pride for Gary was that he got to call state tournament games for five of the six Hardin County schools. He was thrilled he was there when Hardin Northern won the state football title in 2004, and one of the true highlights of his career was being along for the ride when Upper Scioto Valley won both the boys and girls state basketball titles in 1994. He loved to recall the time he and Denny Higgins called the USV boys regional title game in Toledo in the afternoon, then hightailed it to Columbus to call the Lady Rams’ state title game in the evening. One of his prized possessions was an autographed basketball signed by both the USV boys and girls state title teams, which he never let me touch.
Gary was best known as the “Voice of the Wildcats,” and I don’t have to say how excited he has that he got to call not one but two Kenton state football championships on WKTN.
Gary teamed with the aforementioned Denny Higgins for nearly 20 years, and their broadcasts were basically “appointment-listening” for Wildcat fans. Unless you live in Kenton, you cannot fully appreciate how big Gary and Denny were to the community. Put it this way – there are still some “I listen to Wildcat sports on WKTN with Gary and Denny” T-shirts in circulation in Kenton, and I am sure a reprint would quickly sell out.
The best way to sum up Gary’s contribution to Hardin County sports is this — if the story of Hardin County sports was written by Thad Gardner (a Hall-of-Fame sports writer from the Kenton Times), then the narration was provided by Gary Lowe.
Gary was inducted into the Hardin County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. I broadcast with the man for 10 years, but more importantly I called him my friend for 21 years, and one of the greatest honors of my life was being able to speak for him at the ceremony.
Gary retired from sportscasting after suffering a stroke in 2011, but he still stayed in touch with the local sports scene, constantly peppering me with questions about the county teams whenever we spoke. When we first met in 1996, the great loves in Gary’s life were his wife, Diane, and his family, the Buckeyes, the Reds, the Wildcats and the rest of the local sports teams. Nothing changed in the 21 years in between as we discussed the upcoming high school football season and chatted about the Reds the last time we spoke (it was not a pleasant conversation, as anyone who has seen the team this year can attest).
Keith Gensheimer, the long-time president and general manager at WKTN, came to Kenton in 1977. It wasn’t long after that Gary started working at the station, and Keith often marveled at his good fortune.
“How lucky was I to have Gary Lowe for all that time?” Keith said.
We were all lucky to have Gary Lowe.
Jim Homan, a past Kenton Times sports editor, has been broadcasting games for WKTN for more than a decade.