45 years and 11 boards. How the Lowerys give back to Birmingham

Peggy and James Lowery catalog fossils in the McWane collections department. (Bham Now)

For most people, a day spent in the depths of a laboratory with dinosaur fossils would not be considered a romantic date.  For James and Peggy Lowery, it’s been their weekly go-to date for over a decade.

Since retirement, the couple has been going to the McWane Science Center every Tuesday to volunteer in the fossil collections department, organizing and filing away fossils in the extensive McWane collection.  

Giving Back Together

The Lowerys are a part of a core group of specialized volunteers that keep things running smoothly in the department. According to Jun Ebersole, Director of Collections at McWane, the work they do is invaluable to the department.

“The volunteer work they’ve put in over the past fifteen years amounts to lifetimes of work for one person,” he said.

James Lowery holds a fossil in the collections department. Over the years, the two have cataloged thousands of fossils. (Bham Now)

Love and lifelong learning

Their work doesn’t stop with McWane, either. They’ve amassed thousands of volunteer hours as part of dozens organizations during their 44 years of marriage. Across the state and country, from the Birmingham Canoe club to the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the two have given their time to a wide range of groups.

“We are gluttons for volunteering!” said James.

Neither of the two had any technical experience in the field when embarking on this journey of super-volunteerism after retirement – it was a love of continued learning and each other that sparked their passion.  

James pointing out a fossilized imprint of a fern (Bham Now)

“We firmly believe in lifelong learning. The desire to stay active and continue to learn new things – that’s really how got we got started,” he said.

Becoming volunteers

It all began with their children’s interest in Astronomy, which led them to an astronomy club, which then led James to the Science Fair Advisory council. From there, he said, their interest expanded to various subjects.

“Volunteering enables you to find out what your interested in – it gives you more flexibility to try things out on a trial basis,” he said. “Start where you are comfortable and let your interests guide you.”

The Lowerys say that the journey to volunteering doesn’t have to be intimidating – it should be a progression into finding what you enjoy doing.

James and Peggy showing fossilized tracks to Bham Now producer Christine Hull. (Bham Now)

Start small

“You don’t have to become a volunteer with a lot of hours each week right away.” said Peggy. “Most people don’t have the time, especially when they are younger and have young families, to go and spend much time giving back. It’s very much been a progression to where we are today.”

Since retiring,  James has spent most of his waking hours volunteering his time and traveling to various events for a wide range of boards, councils and commissions. Although Peggy admits not all of the topics pique her interest, it’s something they always do together.

“If I didn’t go with him everywhere, I’d never see him!” said Peggy.

How will they spend their 45th anniversary? At the Alabama Water Watch Association annual meeting. Overjoyed to be together, doing what they love.

“We don’t think of it as volunteering,” said James. “It’s a way of life to us.”

If that’s not #relationshipgoals, I don’t know what is!

What’s your favorite way to give back in Birmingham? We’d love to hear from you!