NEW YORK — Pat Lowry, a former Eye editor of Women’s Wear Daily, died of natural causes Friday at the Village Nursing Home here. She was 86.

Born in Andover, Mass., on Oct. 13, 1918, Lowry started working for WWD in 1948 and retired four decades later at the age of 70. During her time at the paper, she transformed the Eye page into “an important New York institution,” said Howard Kissel, a former WWD arts editor and now a theater critic for The New York Daily News.

“[Pat] was full of ideas,” said Mort Sheinman, a former managing editor of WWD. “When a major news story broke, something that might have nothing to do with the fashion industry — an assassination attempt, say, or a political scandal — she would have her reporters contact a diverse and often surprising group of personalities for comment.” In doing so, said Sheinman, “she kept the Eye page lively, provocative and unpredictable.”

Ben Brantley, The New York Times’ chief theater critic who began working with Lowry at WWD in the late Seventies, said, “She knew her territory. She was very matter-of-fact and was never dazzled by the celebrities she put on her pages. The fluctuations of their careers and their place in the larger social order she covered with almost an anthropological distance...It was great to have someone utterly without pretension in that job.”

Prior to editing the Eye, Lowry was responsible for summarizing the daily contents of the paper on its page two.

“Pat always knew what the news nugget was in a story,” said Kissel. “It sometimes eluded the editors and the reporters, but Pat just understood.”

Her proudest moment, her family said, was working on the paper’s 50th anniversary issue.

“Pat was feisty, opinionated, intimidating and a terrific newspaperwoman,” said Sheinman. “She called herself a libertarian and she loathed any form of authority, whether from government or from her editors.”

Lowry also had a fiercely independent sense of style.

“She always wore dark sunglasses,” said Kissel. “I have a feeling it had to do with some sort of medical condition, but it gave the impression of an eccentric.”“Career women in those days always had to have something to stand out,” said Mary Reinholz, a former WWD market editor who worked closely with Lowry. “That was how women established themselves in a man’s world, and Pat did it very well.”

“I actually once told a photographer she was Greta Garbo working under a pseudonym,” said Brantley, also noting her dark glasses and Garbo-esque haircut. “To me, someone who had just moved to New York [in 1978], she seemed to have that certain essence of a wry, funny New Yorker.”

Lowry had been staying at the nursing home since September, after she suffered injuries during a fall at her Greenwich Village apartment — a fifth floor walkup on Bank Street that had been her home for close to five decades.

Lowry, who never married, is survived by her sister, Virginia Climo, as well as five nephews and two nieces. Services were held Tuesday in Sayville, N.Y.

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