Henry E. S. Owen, age 86, passed away on January 27, 2021 after a brief battle with COVID-19. Raised in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Hank lived the last 60 years of his life in Connecticut; initially in Avon, and for the last 48 years, in Trumbull. He was the proud son of Archibald and Elizabeth (Spyker) Owen. Hank is survived by his best friend, high school sweetheart and wife of 62 years, Polly Keller Owen. He also leaves behind their four children and their spouses: Susan Owen (Lance Leverenz) of Bethesda, MD; Timothy Owen (Debra) of Trumbull; Molly Owen-Kiritsy (Christopher Kiritsy) of Newton, MA; and Douglas Owen (Kimberly) of Falls Church, VA. He was a wonderful Pop Pop to his 10 grandchildren – Kathryn and Andrew Leverenz, Kelsey and Brandon Owen, Alex, Hannah, Ben and Elias Kiritsy, and Maggie and Charlie Owen – who affectionately remember their Pop Pop as never being too busy to ask about all that was happening with them.
Hank embraced his small-town upbringing in Lewisburg – a place where everybody knew one another and his family, who had deep roots in the area. It was in this setting that he developed many of the values that defined him – a sense of family, faith, loyalty, a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for hard work. He spoke of his youth very fondly – delivering newspapers, playing pick-up baseball games, fishing, hiking in the woods and swimming in the Susquehanna River. Hank loved sports and played on the high school football, basketball and baseball teams.
He followed his brother Arch and other relatives to Bucknell University where he majored in engineering, was active in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and played center on the university football team. Many still talk about Hank’s heavyweight title in Bucknell’s intra-fraternity boxing match!
Having participated in ROTC throughout college, Hank entered the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant after graduation and served for two years. After seven years of ‘on again off again’ dating, Hank and Polly married in 1958 and moved to Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. Following his service in the Army, Hank began his 28-year career with the General Electric Company. During his years at GE, Hank’s dogged dedication to problem-solving resulted in seven engineering patents and diverse assignments throughout the company. A highlight was being selected to teach the GE ‘A Course’ to young engineers. After leaving GE, Hank served as VP of Sales and Marketing for the Thermatool Corporation, where he enjoyed the international travel and connections with clients around the world. He concluded his career by forming his own firm, Owen & Keller, which offered marketing consulting to the pipe and tube industry.
While proud of his career, Hank’s primary focus was Polly and the family and anything with which they were involved. When his children were young, he felt it was important to be home in the evenings to hear about their day and offer advice. As the kids grew up, he and Polly stayed connected to their interests yet also encouraged them to chart their own paths. A neighbor recently noted about Hank that “a man’s wealth is not measured by the materials he collects, but the values he lives by and the qualities of the children he raised.”
In retirement, Hank and Polly began their day together with coffee and the New York Times. They created and tended an extensive backyard garden and dedicated much time to battle with the woodchucks. Winter months included watching the birds at the many feeders he maintained. They loved their vacations with family and friends – whether in Connecticut, Vermont, Cape Cod, Ocean City NJ, or on several special trips overseas.
Hank loved the outdoors and one of his great joys was sharing it with his children and grandchildren. He was always pleased to go for a hike, spend time camping, or sit outside around a campfire or fire pit. He loved the casual and thoughtful conversation that resulted and was known for saying that there was “wisdom in the coals of a fire.” As a person who was very capable with his hands and determined to do the job the “right way”, much of his spare time was spent happily working on home and yard projects. It was a rare day that didn’t include some combination of building, painting, restoring, planting and repairing.
Hank was an active and engaged community member. For all his years in Trumbull, he loved and served his church, Nichols United Methodist, and his community, including the Nichols Fire Department, the Nichols Improvement Association, and the Thrushwood Lake Association.
Throughout his life, Hank was an avid reader and an interesting and interested conversationalist –curious to meet new people, foster lifelong friendships, and discuss a wide swath of subjects from current affairs and politics to sports, wildlife, business, religion, trains and tractors. His family will always carry with them his calm demeanor, logical approach to life and deep-rooted respect for all who crossed his path.
Hank’s life will be celebrated with a virtual memorial and an in-person service in the coming months. Details will be forthcoming.
For those who wish to honor Hank, donations may be made to the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) or the Golden Hill Supper Program to alleviate hunger (www.goldenhill.org/690205 and tel. 203 336 0152).
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