Ray Lowen, founder of The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, died Friday, February 19 at the age of 88 of natural causes, The Center announced Thursday.
Lowen was instrumental to the founding of The Center, served on the Board of Directors for a number of years, and was known for boosting morale among members of the LGBTQ community.
“Ray was an incredible leader and a real hero to so many in our city," said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. "He will be deeply missed, but his profound legacy will live on in the strong and proud LGBT community he helped establish here. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.”
“Ray Lowen was a tireless champion for LGBTQ people in Long Beach,” said The Center’s Executive Director Porter Gilberg. “His passion for The Center never faded and he spent decades advocating for us and for full legal and social equality for LGBTQ people everywhere. His early life also instilled in him a great passion for racial equality and social justice and I know this had a profound impact on how he fought for all of us for so long in Long Beach. He has created so much and touched so many in this City and we are forever grateful for Ray paving the way for us to be living in the community we are today."
Among Lowen’s numerous commendations and awards was his serving as the Grand Marshal of the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade, receiving a Center Icon Award, being honored with the James Lampkin Memorial Service Award and the 1984 Lambda Human Rights Banquet. Lowen was also honored in 2012 as one of the first inductees into Equality Plaza in Harvey Milk Promenade Park.
“Lowen is also fondly remembered for painting thousands of stones with hearts and inspirational messages that he sold in the community to raise funds for The Center and local efforts to combat HIV/AIDS,” a release from The Center stated.
Lowen always supported the arts, having founded the Olympic Art Guild, according to The Center. He also hosted a rooftop drawing club from his home in Belmont Shore and served as treasurer of The Society of Graphic Designers.
Lowen graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles, enlisted in the army shortly after and was honorably discharged in 1947. He graduated from Chouinard Art Institute in 1954 and worked professionally as an artist for a variety of firms, including his own: Mintz, Lowen, and Associates. He also supported himself throughout 1960s and ‘70s by creating jewelry, sculptures, manufacturing art and hosting art events.
He is survived by his nieces Valerie Tate and Jannine Lowen.
A memorial service and celebration of life will be held on Sunday March 6, 2016 at 12:00PM at The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach.
The Center is located at 2017 East Fourth Street.