CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, March 22 (UPI) -- Mountaineer George Lowe, the last surviving member of the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, was hailed as an "unsung hero" by a New Zealand colleague.
Lowe, who was 89, died Wednesday in a nursing home in Ripley, England, the New Zealand Herald reported Friday.
Lowe helped set up a final camp 300 meters (984 feet) from the summit of the mountain in Nepal May 28, 1953, a day before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the top of the 8,850-meter (29,035 feet) peak.
Sam Newton, general manager of the New Zealand Alpine Club, of which Lowe was a lifetime member, called him "an unsung hero of the climb," a man with extraordinary athletic ability.
"He was typical of that generation of New Zealand climbers who, with very little funding and a lot of effort, represented New Zealand very well overseas," Newton said.
Peter Hillary, Sir Edmund Hillary's son, spoke of Lowe on Radio New Zealand Friday. He told how his father and Lowe helped build hospitals and schools in Nepal for years after the celebrated climb.
Lowe was the first person to greet Hillary and Norgay after they descended from the summit.
Britain's Guardian newspaper said Hillary's first words, to Lowe, after the successful climb were, "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off."
Family friend Dr. Huw Lewis-Jones told The Guardian: "[Lowe] was a gentle soul, a gentleman, generous with his time. [He]remained a humble, happy man right to the end. That's an inspirational lesson to us all."