YOU DIDN'T dare say anything negative about Joe Paterno in Jack Lowry's presence.

Jack was a passionate Penn State football fan, and Joe Paterno, the legendary and long-lived coach, was his idol.

In fact, there were those who thought that he resembled Paterno, a comparison Jack never commented on, but it was obvious he got a secret kick out of it.

John S. Lowry, former railroad worker and longtime salesman for the 3M Co., an artist whose oils hang in family homes, a Navy veteran of World War II and devoted family man, died May 21 after a seven-month battle with bladder cancer. He was 84 and lived in Willow Valley, Lancaster County, but grew up in West Philadelphia and lived for 10 years in Ocean City, N.J.

Jack Lowry could have made a living as a professional artist, said his son, Thomas S. Lowry. He was that good. But he lacked the confidence to pursue such a career.

"I always thought that was a big mistake," Tom said.

Instead, his father contented himself with creating landscapes, Philly street scenes and Atlantic Ocean seascapes strictly for the enjoyment of family and friends.

He was born in Philadelphia, the oldest of the three children of the late Robert and Emily Beattie, Irish immigrants. In 1913, his parents, who did not know each other at the time, arrived in the United States. His father was a Philly bus driver.

Jack graduated from West Philadelphia High School and attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, now the University of the Arts.

During World War II, he served as a radio operator aboard the USS Maloy, a destroyer escort that supported Omaha Beach in the Normandy Invasion in June 1944. The Maloy continued to patrol the Normandy coast, raiding enemy shipping whenever encountered.

He finished out his Navy service in Panama and was discharged in 1946.

Jack met his wife, Evelyn, at a YMCA dance after the war, and they were married for 57 years.

After their marriage, they moved to Bethlehem, and he worked for a time for the Lehigh Valley Railroad before joining 3M.

He sold copy machines to small office-supply businesses. The job required him to be on the road quite a bit, lugging those big copy machines in the back of his station wagon.

Besides his painting, Jack was a skilled woodworker, who made furniture and frames for his artwork.

Although Jack was proud of his Irish heritage, he never got to visit the Auld Sod until last October, when he and son Tom made the trip.

"We met a first cousin who hadn't immigrated to America with the rest of the family and discovered the little stone house where his parents' family lived in County Donegal," Tom said.

"We drank a lot of Guinness."

After his retirement, Jack and Evelyn moved to Ocean City, where he took part-time jobs and devoted himself to doing yard work.

"Ocean City was a special place for my dad," said Tom, a senior writer for Business Week. "We had vacationed there most every summer since my brother and I were born. He loved to ride his bike on the boardwalk, and became an active member of the Methodist church there."

In 1994, he and his wife moved to a retirement community in Lancaster County, where Jack, with his friendly, outgoing personality, was a big hit with fellow guests.

"He had a gift for knowing everybody wherever he lived," his son said. "He had a great sense of humor and was a big kidder. He was just a good guy."

In June 1988, Jack lost his son Matthew to stomach cancer at age 43. Matthew - an architect, painter, teacher and antique collector - had inherited his father's artistic talents.

Besides his wife and son, Jack is survived by a sister, Virginia Manes.

Services: Memorial service 11 a.m. Saturday at the First United Methodist Church, 29 E. Walnut St., Lancaster. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Hospice of Lancaster County, Box 4125, Lancaster PA 17604. *