Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dorothy Louise Owen, 1908-2004

The Daily Iowegian - 14 February 2004
  Dorothy Louise Owen was born April 26, 1908 at the family farm west of Jerome, Iowa, the oldest child of Samuel Owen and Vera (Sedgwick) Owen. She passed away at the age of 95 on February 6, 2004 at her home in Centerville. She was blessed with five younger brothers, Thomas, Hobart, Richard, Kenneth and Donald whom she was very fond of. Along with her parents and her brothers, a nephew Thomas and sisters-in-law Ethel and Frances preceded her in death. She enjoyed living on the farm with all of its adventures. The old home place is still in the family and she was able to visit and reminisce about the good times she shared with her family. Dorothy would relate many wonderful stories about growing up there with her grandparents, parents, brothers and the many neighbors and cherished those memories until her death. She often mentioned how she felt a little guilty not helping her mother more while growing up, and admitted she was much more content working outside with her Dad and brothers. She loved helping with the horses and livestock.  
  Dorothy attended grade school in JeromeIowa and graduated from Centerville High School. She went to Iowa State Teacher's College (now University of Northern Iowa) in Cedar Falls with the intention of taking a two year teaching course. While she was there, the state passed a law requiring Physical Education as part of school. She wanted this degree, for she enjoyed athletics, and with the new law, there would be a need for many physical education teachers in the state. As a result, Dorothy stayed on a total of four years and received a bachelor's degree with a Physical Education major in 1929. Of course, this year was the beginning of the Depression and many graduates were without jobs. Teachers doubled up to teach required courses and physical education, and women found themselves the first to be unemployed. Dorothy went home and was unemployed for six months... this was a time when women were expressing a change in their attitudes... stockings were rolled, dresses were shorter, sleeves were not necessary and hair was bobbed. Life was more rebellious. The plane had arrived and the automobile was making it a more mobile society. 
  Amelia Earhardt was one of the young women she admired. Dorothy wanted a career in a time that was not always conducive to women in the workforce. She had a four year degree which was not a common thing in a rural community of the 1930's. Her life was about to change. Her professors at Iowa State Teacher's College got in touch with Dorothy and asked if she would come back to the campus at Cedar Falls to substitute for an ill teacher. She jumped at the opportunity... this was her first job. There were some downsides. She had never played basketball though she was acquainted with the game, and she had never had any training or experience with ballroom dancing. Of course, these were two courses she was required to teach. Dorothy finished the semester in the spring. She thought she made a wonderful salary for a substitute teacher, plus she was frugal and saved enough money to continue her education. A year later, she received her Masters Degree from Columbia University and returned to Centerville to begin teaching American Government and Physical Education at Centerville Community College, receiving $90 a month. Dorothy also became the assistant girl's basketball coach to Mr. Forney, where the CHS girls won Iowa State Basketball Championships for two years. She loved teaching and coaching, but most of all she loved the students. 
  While teaching and coaching, Dorothy took classes at the University of Iowa on Saturdays. She would drive up Friday after school, go to classes on Saturday and drive back to Centerville. Dorothy placed great value on education. Then the Centerville High School burned, classes were held all over town and there was no gym, so Dorothy accepted a Physical Education teaching and Librarian position at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. PleasantIowa. In the summer of 1940, she attended the University of Illinois to get her Library Training and returned to Mt. Pleasant to continue teaching. On December 7, 1941, she drove her new Plymouth Coupe to Springfield, Illinois to visit a friend. She didn't think life could get any better. Then Pearl Harbor happened. 
  At the beginning of WWII, Iowa Wesleyan was taken over by the Air Force, so after her term was over, she enlisted in the Waves. Although she could have enlisted as an Officer, that wasn't appealing to her. She wanted to become an airplane mechanic. She became a "Specialist T" after taking an aptitude test and earned her stripes one, two and three. Boat training was at Hunter College in New York State, and then she went on to Atlanta, Georgia for Link training at the Air Base there. After passing the Link Navigation, she moved to Providence, Rhode Island to teach Air Force cadets for two years. Women were not encouraged at that time to advance or to make a career in the military. She came back to Iowa. Her mother Vera was diagnosed with a brain tumor, so Dorothy was her care-giver until her death in 1952.   Dorothy was secretary for her brother, Kenneth, during his terms as State Representative in the early 1950's and commuted daily to Des Moines during the Legislative sessions. In November, 1955, she began working at the Drake Library and remained there until her retirement in 1988. It was a job she loved and was devoted to. Although the library was old and stuffed full, she gave it a home-like atmosphere for this was her house, her home for 33 years. She loved books and wanted everyone to have the opportunity to read, learn and travel to new places... if only in their hearts. When library funds were low, she was known to purchase books herself for the shelves, although she would never admit to it. She was a special lady with so much love to give. Her relationship with the Lord was an important one. She rarely missed a Sunday of Morning Meeting or Evening Meetings on Wednesdays and Sundays at the Gospel Chapel in Centerville. Her love of animals branded her as the neighborhood lady who took in homeless animals in need of a little food, water and love. A stray was never turned away. She appreciated life in a way so few people do... never complaining and so accepting of everyone. She was never too busy to listen to us, teach us and learn from us. 
 Those close to you, Dorothy, are going to miss you because we loved you as dearly as you loved us.
  Dorothy is survived by sisters-in-law Marilyn Owen of Centerville, VA, Carolyn Owen of Omaha, NE, and nieces Paula Franks of VA, Kelly Jerosch of VA, Diana Glenn of Centerville, Jean Orr of NE, Judy Owen of CA, Linda Polizotto of IN and Pam Owen of FL, nephews Keith Owen of Centerville, Samuel Owen of CO, KC Owen of CO and Stanley Owen of CA plus many great-nieces, great-nephews and friends.
  Her body is at the Thomas Lange Funeral Home in Centerville where a private service will be held. Interment will be at the Jerome Cemetery. A Celebration of Dorothy's life will be in May of this year in which her friends and acquaintances are welcome to attend. Time and place of this will be announced at a later date.
  Any pictures, memories or stories of Dorothy would be appreciated and can be left at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established to either the Drake Public Library or the Heartland Humane Society. Memorials may be left at or mailed to Thomas Lange Funeral Home 1900 S. 18th St. Centerville, Ia 52544.


Gravestone in Jerome Cemetery

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