The pool industry lost an iconic figure on November 17, 2021. Bob Lowry, 75, was broadly known in the pool and hot tub world as an instructor, author and innovator of many specialty pool and spa chemicals. On the night of his passing, I was honored to accept on his behalf the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pool Nation Awards event held at the Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Dallas.
Bob grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he was an all-star athlete. He had his own boat as a teen, and was an avid water skier, surfer and diver. After high school, he aspired to play football at the University of Florida, but instead the Selective Service came knocking. Due to a technicality, he was eligible to be drafted for the Vietnam war. Rather than be a draftee, however, he voluntarily enlisted for the Army. He was sent to Fort Jackson for basic training, where he was an excellent shot with a rifle, and strong and agile in his training.
He was sent to special forces training and by age 18 became one of the youngest Green Berets. By 19, he was commanding a squad. Bob was a POW, held for several weeks in a bamboo cage submersed partially in a river. Fortunately he was rescued and freed by members of his squadron.
Later in life, he received two degrees in chemistry from the University of Florida. His chemistry training led him to work in the pool industry, where he developed 111 new chemistry products, including an instant conditioner known as liquid CYA. He also started two specialty chemical companies: Robarb and Leisure Time Chemical.
Bob wrote 21 pool and spa chemistry books, and published over 175 technical articles. He also wrote the only three IPSSA training manuals, totalling 425 pages on water chemistry. He had a long history of teaching, troubleshooting and innovating to help pool service techs.
In 2018, he wrote two books for residential pool service pros and created the Pool Chemistry Training Institute, the premier certification class that teaches a dynamic method for keeping pool water balanced and stable.
Throughout his career, his passion was to help pool professionals solve chemical-related challenges, and to assist in finding solutions and bringing savings and success to their business. He was one of the most brilliant, down-to-earth and friendly people I ever had the pleasure to know. Before I met Bob, though, I had already been affected by his pool industry contributions. When I started as a pool service tech in Southern California, there was a new product Bob invented called Super Blue that worked great at clearing cloudy pools, especially ones with sand filters.
When I moved into retail and hot tubs were all the rage, my go-to product was Bright and Clear, which Bob and a partner invented. Bob is solely responsible for spa specialty chemicals being available today. He not only developed the products, but he also developed the best treatment methods for hot tubs. He understood a long time ago that a hot tub was not the same thing as a swimming pool.
When I started in the pool industry, there were no personal computers, cell phones, internet or cable TV. If you wanted to know something, you had to go to a class or read published materials. Around 1985, Bob teamed up with David Dickman and created the pool trade newspaper Service Industry News to bring valuable water chemistry information directly to the pool service professional. He also taught one of the best and most understandable classes on water chemistry. It was at one of those classes that I first met him. His class on water chemistry was always packed because he presented the subject with great clarity and enthusiasm. Bob was my friend, advisor and mentor and he will be greatly missed. His legacy of practical, non-partisan education will live on. That is Bob’s greatest gift he left, and it is what he was passionate about even up to the last days of his life.