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Tragic drownings eclipse son's goodwill gesture

(ran East, South, Beach editions)

Jamieson Lowe came to Florida to help his mother. The 20-year-old from New York wanted to find a job, earn some money and make life a bit easier for Edna Johnson, who was caring for three young children in her 12th Avenue S home.

In a tragic twist, his goodwill mission ended up making life harder.

Lowe and his father, Jesse G. Lowe, 42, drowned July 16 in an accident in Tampa Bay. Now, his mother is trying to figure out how to pay for her son's funeral today and burial at Sunnyside Cemetery on 19th Street N.

"To me, it's not a burden," said Johnson, 42, a certified nursing assistant. "I don't know what word to use in place of that. But I wouldn't say burden."

More difficult, she said, is the fact that Jamieson is gone.

She sees signs of him everywhere. In the auto-enthusiast magazines he collected in his room. In shirts of his that still show up in her laundry. In that broken ring she lost in April, then found several days after he drowned.

She saw it on the ground in the backyard. "I LOVE YOU" said the gold-plated letters. It was as if her son was speaking to her from another world, she said.

Police still aren't sure exactly how the Lowes drowned. They speculate the younger Lowe was swimming or wading and somehow got into trouble. The father _ a former Marine _ might have raced into the water and tried to save him.

Their bodies were found floating in waist-deep water along the St. Petersburg waterfront near North Shore Park.

"We really don't know what happened," Johnson said.

Lowe had arrived in Florida in February. His fiancee and 1-year-old son stayed in New York; they would join him later. His mother was short on money and had her hands full with 6-year-old twins and a 9-year-old.

"His goal was to help me out of a bind and put a smile on my face," Johnson said.

He had little luck finding work. But he cooked, helped with the kids and had his first opportunity in years to spend a lot of time with his dad, she said.

He helped his mom pick out a 55-gallon fish tank for the house and cleaned the tank when it got dirty. He applied for jobs at grocery stores, occasionally worked at day-labor agencies and worried about his family up north.

In May, he wrote a note and tucked it in his Bible.

"Lord, my family and me have been struggling all our lives," it said. "Please bless me with a good job so that I will be able to take care of my son. Lord, also please bless me with a car and a home and Lord, whatever job I get, just let me do well at it. Please, Lord, I need your help."

Since his death, his mother has had trouble sleeping and has stopped working. She wonders how the death fits into God's plan.

"I can't see it yet," she said. "But God is not going to make any mistakes. That's how I look at it. In time, it will come to my knowledge."

A joint memorial service for father and son is scheduled at 1 p.m. today at Elim Seventh-day Adventist Church at 801 Sixth Avenue S. Donations for the younger Lowe, whose life was uninsured, can be sent to the Lowe Funeral Expense Fund at First of America Bank at 3700 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, FL 33704.

The elder Lowe is to be buried among fellow veterans at the Bay Pines National Cemetery, his relatives said.