Ed Lowe, founder and owner of beloved Celebration Restaurant, died on Wednesday in Big Bend National Park.
In the course of a five-day canoeing trip with others, Lowe, an avid outdoorsman, fell from an embankment into the Rio Grande while scouting for a camping emplacement. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, according to National Park Service authorities, reports the Dallas Morning News, though members of his party performed CPR and canoed upstream to alert authorities.
The restaurant Lowe established in 1971 on Lovers Lane and Lemmon Avenue was a cozy spot for chicken-fried steak, meat loaf, and big bowls of fresh, local greens. He was one of the first to promote home cooking and pioneer a farm-to-table ethos, reaching out to local artisans like Paula Lambert of the Mozzarella Co., another early artisan-food pioneer.
Long before prepackaged food to-go was a fad, Lowe expanded Celebration in 2000 to include the Market, where diners could pick up entrees for a meal at home. Former D Magazine dining critic Nancy Nichols evoked them in an ode to casseroles she wrote in the magazine. As for many, memories of Celebration’s food are tied to home.
“Ed was so charming,” Nichols wrote in a message today. “The last time I saw him he was standing in the new bar they built inside the place. It was a long time coming, that bar! He was so proud. He kept the restaurant moving forward at a slower pace than most, but he knew his crowd and acted accordingly. I remember him as a hippie growing old gracefully. He never searched out the spotlight he deserved.”
Cullen Poole, a long-time employee at the restaurant, also saw the personal side of a restaurateur who drew a loyal following reflected in a wall of employee portraits. “I [saw] him help people pay their tuition, help people get to rehab, he [was] at every monthly birthday party, he has thrown parties for team members that received their citizenship, engagements, etc.,” Poole says. “Any major life event, he was there.”
UPDATE: After reaching out to the those who knew Lowe, we’re including more recollections.
JT Todaro, who worked at Celebration for six years as a server, bartender, and manager has the following to say about Lowe, offering more details that those close to him will recognize:
“I have many fond memories of him, too many to list: crossword puzzles during the breaks between shifts (me with the Daily Commuter and Ed with The New York Times), yearly trips for the staff to his river house, or when he loaned me money for tuition when my financial aid fell through, and told me to take as much time as I needed to pay it back.”