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jim owen

January 29, 2023 - 5:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jim owen, GO ART!, batavia, news, arts.

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The Owen Library at GO ART! was unveiled today as the James R. Owen Memorial Library, in honor of the late "Mayor" Jim Owen, who passed away Jan. 19.

Owen, notoriously tight-fisted with a dollar, if not a dime, was generous with his donations to causes he supported, especially the arts, and especially music.  Owen, who made no bones about his lack of musical talent (he was quoted at the event as once saying, "I sing solo.  So low, nobody can hear it.") was especially proud of the accomplishments of his father, the late Frank Owen, who was a music teacher at Batavia High School.

In addition to the many donations he made to GO ART! during his lifetime -- such as the funds to help create the library, the books in the library, and the white baby grand piano, he also left a sizeable donation, Director Gregory Hallock (speaking above) said. It's enough that GO ART! can create an endowment fund for the first time in the organization's history. 

Previously:

Photos by Howard Owens

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Andy Rich and Brad Meholick at the Franke E. Owen Memorial Piano in the James R. Owen Memorial Library.

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Carol Reband and Elain Watson toast Jim Owen.

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January 28, 2023 - 8:49pm

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Be like Jim.

You didn’t have to know Jim Owen to want to be like him. You didn’t have to know him to respect the man he was and what he brought to this community. And you especially didn’t have to know him to reap some of the good and kind messages that he left behind.

But if you didn’t know Jim Owen, a Batavia resident whose name has been echoed throughout the city with particular might this past year, it truly was a loss that you never had the privilege to feel. Perhaps you’ve read about Jim recently, about his passion for the city school district as a substitute teacher, supporter, mentor, historian, and music lover who lived long enough to see the high school auditorium named after his father, Frank E. Owen.

Or perhaps you read about him being dubbed the Mayor of Redfield Parkway by Batavia City Council for his efforts to have pillars restored on the westside street, and tireless advocacy for the neighborhood and beyond. Or when he donated funds to make the Owen library at GO Art! a reality.

Make time for others
This piece isn’t so much about Jim as it is about what he created up until he died on Jan. 19 of this year. Yes, he gave the community quite a lot — financial and material donations, camaraderie, encouraging words, bits of history culled from his research, recognition, cheesy jokes that somehow always hit the mark, friendship, and, certainly, time. He always gave his time.

During Owen's funeral service Saturday, the Rev. Vern Saile noted something about Jim’s obituary. Usually, one’s obit states everything about that person, Saile said.

“But Jim’s obituary is almost entirely about the people he wants to thank,” Saile said in a near-packed sanctuary at Northgate Church.

That’s a striking difference. Instead of thinking about how he transformed the world, Jim thought about how others made an impact on him. Outward thinking. Positive thinking. Those weren’t just phrases from a motivational book; they were how Jim Owen lived his life.

Be a friend
“He loved people, he loved to encourage them,” Saile said. “He appreciated family, friends, students, and community. He may have more friends than anybody I’ve ever known.”

While visiting Jim in the hospital one day, Vern logged friends who stopped by while Jim had nodded off. There were a dozen in 90 minutes, Saile said with a hint of astonishment.

You don’t have to be perfect, but you can be positive
When he began his talk, Saile admitted that he first found Jim Owen “a little quirky.” He wasn’t quite sure how to take the man that had volunteered to be part of an important committee.

“He didn’t always say a lot, but when he did speak, it was positive,” Saile said. “I cannot remember him saying anything negative.”

He then joked about how Jim would check to see if he was in the minutes. He would sometimes make the first or second motion just to ensure his name was documented. He was the same with local events — often attending ribbon cuttings and business openings, somehow appearing in the media photos.

Quirky? Perhaps. His mom, dad, brother and sister have died, leaving Jim as the remaining Owen, and it seemed as though he wanted his life to be known. To be worth something. Sound familiar? Who can say that’s an unfamiliar notion for most mortals?

Be interested in others
Jim’s good friend Michael Marsh gave an example of how caring and genuine Jim was with everyone he met. He would ask your name, where are you from, “and on and on, and on and on,” Marsh said.

Jim Owen had a sincere interest in people — it wasn’t just small talk, but a need to know more about someone. He “strongly believed in education, and giving tools” for students to believe in themselves, Marsh said.

Jim was a coach, and often told his students that “it’s not important if you come in first or come in last, but that you come in.”

“He would slide into your life and just be there,” Marsh said.

And without Jim’s jovial one-liners, questions, historical trivia, upbeat adages, and other topics of discussion, “you find yourself missing it,” Marsh said.

Jim was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last year, and during his last days in hospice care, he wondered aloud if he would be forgotten. Alas, no.

Leave a piece of yourself
“His presence has caused all of us to form new friendships, and to foster those friendships,” Marsh said. “It’s our responsibility to carry this legacy on.”

Marsh reminded folks to take time to appreciate one another. It only takes moments to enjoy a conversation, share encouraging words, or make someone smile.

Another one of Jim’s favorite sayings was that “a setback is just a setup for a comeback.” Saile believes that he got the ultimate comeback and is safe and at peace.

Meanwhile, Jim left behind plenty of people to carry forth his legacy of not just seeing the glass as half full, but making it wholly delicious.

Be like Jim.

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Top Photo of Michael Marsh speaking about Jim Owen during Owen's funeral service Saturday at Northgate FMC in Batavia; musical performances included vocals, piano, violin and "Battle Hymn of the Republic," a special request that Owen had made when planning his service. Photos by Howard Owens.

January 27, 2023 - 7:08pm
posted by Press Release in jim owen, GO ART!, batavia, news.

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Press release:

GO ART! will be celebrating the life of James R. Owen on Sunday at 1 p.m. All are welcome to attend. The mic will be open for anyone that wants to speak or share a story about Jim.

The beautiful white baby grand piano in the Owen Library, donated by Mr. Owen, will be played with any and all welcome to sing along. Jim would sit for hours in the Library sharing stories, talking about his father and music, and doing his best to entertain. And entertain, is what we plan to do during this celebration. Food will be provided, and the bar will be open.

When Mr. Owen donated the funds to make the library a reality, he did not want his first name associated with it. He said it was because he did not want to ruin his reputation as a frugal man, but we all know it was because he was humble and did not want the credit. He made GO ART!'s director promise that his first name would not be associated with it while he was alive. Please join GO ART! at this celebration of life event in the renaming of the Owen Library to the James R. Owen Library.

The event will be held at GO ART!'s Seymour Place, 201 East Main Street, Batavia, NY 14020, on Jan. 29 at 1 pm.

January 25, 2023 - 2:55pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, jim owen, batavia.

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Friends of Jim Owen are asking that attendees of this Saturday's funeral who work at a school or had Jim as a teacher at school to please wear your school apparel or colors to the service. 

"That is what Jim is all about, he's being buried in the jacket from his obituary picture," friend Michael Marsh said.

The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Northgate Free Methodist Church, 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia.

For those that can't attend, the service will be livestreamed and available for viewing online

January 20, 2023 - 8:42pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, jim owen, Mayor of Redfield Parkway, batavia.

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For any new journalist not familiar with Jim Owen, he quickly became ‘that guy who showed up again’ to local events, and became a beloved and indelible character amongst local media and citizens alike — dubbed the Mayor of Redfield Parkway for his advocacy and presence on that westside city street — and was a knowledgeable and popular fixture of Batavia and even during his brief stay at Crossroads House, where his rest was often sprinkled with phone calls and visits from friends, students, school staff, musicians and his cat Rosie.

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His investments were large — from providing buckets of history about the city and school district, its buildings and bells and notables, to celebrating and helping to fund upkeep of the newly named Frank E. Owen High School Auditorium for his father’s contributions to the early beginnings of the music program, and filling a portion of GO ART! with local memorabilia — Jim Owen was practically a household name for many.

After a months-long, hard fought battle with cancer, the former and formidable teacher, coach, advocate, supporter, neighbor, historian, friend and smiling face at so many city events, Jim, 79, succumbed to the ill effects on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Just take a look at his Facebook page, and one can get a glimpse at the love and admiration he drew from the community. And just as a tree’s roots draw water into the soil and strengthens its foundation — so too has the community been shored up by what it has drawn from the likable Jim Owen.

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There were many lucky ones who got to know the Mayor more deeply, including longtime Redfield neighbors Rich and Linda Conroy. Friends, yes, but more so, they became family over the years, Linda said. Jim would come over for holiday gatherings, and they exchanged a lot of inner circle stories and jokes, she said.

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“Jim liked to tell the story about how he lived with three women in Sackett’s Harbor when he was a young man right out of college,” Linda said. “Of course, he then would explain that the women were elderly, and he was just renting a room!”

As most people grew to know Jim’s sense of humor and quick wit, they would hear his quips, such as when he told Linda that he was paid weekly. “Very weakly,” he’d joke.

“Also, he liked to tell us about how long of a commute it was for him when he was visiting our house across the street,” she said. “‘You gotta have a little sense of humor,’ he would often say.” 

One of her all-time favorite memories is when he attended her daughter’s graduation party when he was a substitute teacher at the city school district in 2006. All of her daughter's friends were “fascinated” that Mr. Owen was the Conroy’s neighbor.

“The kids kept saying how ‘cool’ it was,” Linda said.

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Of course, not to leave his beloved late sister Kathy out of the picture, there was an old photo posted online taken 50 years earlier that tagged Jim, and some ladies had replied how handsome he was, which seemed to bother his sibling. One had even commented about what a “hottie” Jim was, to which he couldn’t stop talking and smiling, “which annoyed his sister even more,” Linda said.

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Perhaps one of his biggest claims to fame was having taught the current state Governor Kathy Hochul in typing class as a teacher in Hamburg. Hochul, while a member of Congress, visited Batavia and attended a Muckdogs game with Jim, and more recently reached out to him with encouraging words by phone and through email.

"Jim Owen had a profound impact on me, my siblings and countless others as a teacher and coach at Hamburg Central Schools. Always upbeat and encouraging, I was proud to call him a friend later in life, and I will always remember our conversations, including earlier this fall and shortly before he passed,” Hochul said. “I am thankful to have known Mr. Owen, and I send my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all who knew him - he will be dearly missed."

Jim was also friends with state Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who first met him as a senior summer parks program counselor. Jim coordinated all of the kids coming to Hawley’s farm to build a float on one of the hay wagons for the summer parks parade.

“He liked to talk about that often,” Hawley said. “His Father, Frank Owen, was the music director when I was in Batavia High Choristers. He and his sister Kathy were insurance clients of mine, and Jim bought new vehicles often and was always reminding me that he wanted the best prices possible because, as a retired school teacher, he was on a fixed income.”

Hawley was also aware of Owen’s mayor title, due in large part to his work to get stone pillars at Redfield and Main Street refurbished.

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“He was very interested in young people, history and politics. Although a fairly conservative-minded individual, he was always supportive of his former student at Hamburg High School, Kathleen (Courtney) Hochul, when she became Congresswoman, Lieutenant Governor and eventually Governor,” Hawley said. “As Jim’s health declined recently, a friend called me and wondered if I could get word to the governor that Jim’s time was dwindling and his spirits would be buoyed if she could call him ‘one last time.’ I had a very down-to-earth and reminiscing talk with him, and he mentioned that his former student ‘Kathy’ had called and how much he appreciated it. He seemed at peace.”

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Jim was as consistent as he was gregarious. Always ready with a word or two in exchange for a greeting, he often liked to share special moments in his memory: when he taught Gov. Kathy Hochul in high school typing class, met up with a bunch of students for a chat, golfed with R. Stephen Hawley Sr., the current state assemblyman’s father, and even how he gave “that scoop” to a reporter. He seemed to love sharing those memories with the people who knew them best, as he also peppered his days with offering nuggets of information, history, and knowledge that he wanted to impart.

Batavia Middle School teacher Sarah Gahagan knows well of Jim’s giving spirit. In fact, she learned more interesting tidbits from him than from anyone else in the world, she said. And, “oddly enough,” they weren’t always in the form of an actual conversation.

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“On many occasions, I would walk in my classroom and find a large manilla envelope lying on my keyboard. I immediately knew who it was from and couldn't wait to rip it open and see the next topic I would be learning about,” Gahagan said. “Packets of information on various topics — ranging from the history of Barbie dolls to the origins of my son's name, Grant. Jim was insistent I learned everything possible about Ulysses S. Grant. Jim enjoyed researching, highlighting the key points and even leaving little notes in the margin for me. 

“I LOVED finding these envelopes. They made my day. I hung up a picture he printed for me on my bulletin board — never thinking he'd notice — literally the next time he saw me, he commented on it. To this day, I have no clue how he knew it was there,” she said.

She learned a lot about the mysterious bell that Jim kept talking about and wanted desperately to uncover and bring out for all to enjoy. He kept on about it for quite some time.

“Well, it didn’t happen quickly,” Gahagan said. “He would laugh and joke and mentioned it quite a bit. And I mean quite a bit. Again, persistent to get someone to listen. Well, low and behold, they did, and this was a great day. I loved seeing this mission of his come to fruition.”

And in turn, Jim supported every endeavor that she pursued. He would hang out at the middle school, give fist bumps and tell stories and corny jokes that made even the toughest kids crack a smile, she said.

"He was a genuine person who truly cared for the kids. He took time to make those personal connections that sometimes fall to the wayside,” Gahagan said. “Watching Jim's interactions was always a pleasant experience. Jim treated everyone with kindness and received the same respect back in return.  The students truly enjoyed engaging with him.  Jim was always himself: caring, engaging, friendly, and a true friend to all; it's a trait I always admired in him. He had some clutch lines that were a staple before breaks and holidays, and although predictable in nature, oddly enough, they never got old.” 

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It didn’t seem to matter, whether it was students, teachers or administrators, Jim got along with them all. Superintendent Jason Smith posted a message online for the city school district community, and a concert was performed in memory of Jim on Thursday. Smith also shared some thoughts with The Batavian about Jim, who he believed to be “a class act and a man of high character, dignity, and humility, and coupled with a razor-sharp sense of humor and compassion for others — he is an educator’s educator.”

“I first came to know Jim as a family friend at Horseshoe Lake many years ago, and then while in college, I worked for Jim as his lifeguard. He was always proud that I was ‘his’ lifeguard, and he and I would always joke about that—and Jim—with classic Jim humor—would credit himself for my success,” Smith said. “When my children had him in school as a sub—and they loved having him as a sub like all the other Batavia students—he would always be sure to share with them our lifeguarding story.

Smith said, as have so many others, that Jim has been so “truly beloved” by the Batavia district. Smith saw that firsthand during the Frank E. Owen Auditorium dedication last summer.

“I saw that loud and clear when he was swarmed by students,” Smith said. “It was such a heartfelt and genuine moment between a teacher and his students -- something I will never forget. Jim was so proud when the district named the auditorium after his father, and in his true, humble nature, he was quick to credit all those music teachers that came after his father for the success of music at BCSD.

“He gently prodded us to push forward with restoring the bells at the Middle School, and I know how thrilled he was with that project,” Smith said.

District Clerk Britt Witkop got to know Jim when passing him in the hallway or when spending a few minutes talking history with him, she said. He was a “solid dedicated part of the Batavia community and our school district” as a substitute for many years, and truly loved being part of the school system and enjoyed the students, she said.

“He always said that as a substitute, he did his best to keep the class aligned while the teacher was out, and to be a role model to the kids as well as listening and learning from them. He often said the kids taught him a lot about technology, and I could tell he appreciated that because he loved to learn,” Witkop said. “He had a strong sense of honor towards his parents, something we don't always see, which I felt was an admirable quality about him. Over the years, I got to see Mr. Owen more often, and we would talk whenever he came to sub at the high school. I enjoyed my time with him and learned a lot. When you got to know Mr. Owen, you could tell he was a hard worker and genuine person.”

When Jim became sick last year and visits decreased, there was a palpable emptiness that was felt at the district, she said, as “all of us had become accustomed to his presence.”

“Mr. Owen changed so many lives for the better, and I, as well as many others, will truly miss him. I feel lucky to have had him in my life,” she said. He was loved by more people than I think he could have ever imagined. Rest in Peace, my friend.” 

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Probably even Jim would be ready for a chuckle right about now. How about it, teacher Allison Chua? Jim liked to tell a weekly joke: since he has been so good, he suggested that she was going to give him the next two days off. A joke he always told on Fridays, Chua said.

That’s how Jim was, she said: lively, positive and engaging. During visits to see Jim in December, she unabashedly shared that “we love Jim” and “our children love Jim,” and explained why.

“I feel honored to be asked to write a message about Jim Owen. I admire him for all that he means to BCSD and to our town. Jim always shows love for the people around him. When Jim would sub here, he would make a point to stop by rooms, peek in, and check in ‘Hey, how are you doing? You are looking great today!’ He made jokes with the kids and taught us all lessons about Batavia and life in general,” Chua said at the time. “He loved music, and (me) being a mom of music kids, he was the first to compliment both my sons on their performances and talents, acknowledging the amazing music teachers here at BHS. He came to the productions and made every kid feel like the star.”

Her son Aden, who is quiet and reserved, loved talking to Jim, who would first ask, “how are you, young man?” turning to his mom and asking, “who is this, your sister?”

“I would laugh, and I would say big age gap,” she said. “Jim showed this community what Batavia meant to him and his family. His pride makes us all a little more proud. I am so glad my children have memories with Jim Owen.  Jim's heart was open, and his love for this community is an inspiration. He makes me want to ‘Be Like Jim.’ The support that surrounds him is a testimony of a life well lived and a man well loved.” 

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The love of the arts went well beyond music in the Owen household.  His sister, who passed away in 2019,  was an accomplished photographer.  Natalie Owen, his mother, was president of the Richmond Memorial Library Board of Trustees.  Robert Owen, his brother, was an author and actor.

Owen leaned heavily into athletics and admitted he had no artistic ability himself but he was always a firm supporter of the arts.

Based on his support of GO ART!, the nonprofit arts facility hosted an exhibit of Kathy’s photography in 2019, and in 2021, the room that had held the exhibit was dedicated as the Owen Library in honor of Frank Owen and Kathy Owen, complete with a white baby grand piano and a collection of art books.

Gregory Hallock, executive director of GO ART!, said he first met Jim Owen in 2017 during “small business Saturday.”

Jim stopped in to buy some art, “and of course, he haggled us down on their prices," Hallock said. “I helped him carry the pieces out to his car, and he said, ‘Let me be the first Mayor to wish you a Merry Christmas’ and gave me a box of chocolates."

Hallock and Owen grew close while working together to make the Owen Library a reality, and Owen shared something with Hallock that he rarely talked about in public: He was adopted by Frank and Natalie.

“Jim loved all children, and they all loved him back," Hallock said. “But he had a special connection with my children. He told them that he was just like them. He was chosen. My children are my everything, and he is right, they were chosen. I do not walk around saying they are my adopted children. They are my children, plain and simple. Jim and his siblings were chosen as well. This is not something he told most people, and I feel so incredibly humbled that he felt comfortable sharing this with my kids and me. My children loved him. I loved him.”

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Batavia is a city of characters, and Jim Owen was one of its most distinctive and memorable characters, author and screenwriter Bill Kauffman said.

He was only nine when Jim was supervisor of MacArthur Park and coach of Kauffman’s Midgets baseball team.  That forged a relationship and opportunity to see Jim Owen’s passions.

“Jim loved Batavia. He loved everything about it. He loved its history. He loved Redfield Parkway. He loved the city schools,” Kauffman said. “Although he liked to joke about how tight he was with the dollar, Jim was generous with his time, his energy, his attention, and his overflowing affection for his hometown.”

Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian and, in one of Jim's enduring jokes, Jim’s "older brother" (Owens was born in 1961, the year Owen graduated from BHS), was visiting Jim at UMMC, and it was right after Gov. Kathy Hochul and her brothers had called him along with some of their classmates he coached while teaching in Hamburg.

“He is very proud of both his connection to Batavia and Hamburg,” Owens said.  “He said, ‘I have dual citizenship. I'm a citizen of Hamburg and a citizen of Batavia.’”

Former newspaper Managing Editor Mark Graczyk had conducted a Q&A interview with Jim about 15 years ago and recalls how “very gracious” his interviewee was.

“He showed me his extensive baseball card collection and shared memories of when his father Frank, who was music director at Batavia High School,  was able to bring the march king John Philip Sousa to the high school in the 1920s,” Graczyk said. “Jim also shared Backward Glance's historical photos with the paper and helped me with some of the stories I wrote for my Hidden History blog. Sometimes he would stop in the office to offer story ideas or just to shoot the breeze. He was always friendly and encouraging. A great guy and much loved in the Batavia community.”

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Don’t be surprised if, at some point in the warmer future, the city school district has a frozen treat day. But not just any frozen treat, and not just any colored frozen treat. It will be an orange popsicle day in memory of Jim if it happens. Gahagan only learned of this ritual while spending more recent time at Crossroads House, she said.

Not typically encountering a grumpy Jim Owen, she discovered that he could get rather feisty over a few particular things — orange popsicles being one of them. He would have the treat to help mask the bad taste of his medicine.

One of the kind nurses said Ok, Jim, red or purple today?  ORANGE, he said firmly. She laughed and said, you already finished the orange, I checked.  Red or purple?” Gahagan said. “ORANGE he said again. He ended up with red that night, but I made sure I bought two boxes and delivered them in the morning, and told them the orange are for Jim and anyone else can have the rest.”

She has suggested to the superintendent that “an orange popsicle day in honor of Jim would be nice.”

This reporter is going to break from my role for a moment to share how glad I am to have spent some time with Jim on a recent visit to Crossroads House. He was a bit tired but wanted to engage, ask questions, talk, and listen as I read items from around his room and shared about the blizzard that hit the county.

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As I was about to leave, he firmly held my hand and asked if I could stay a little longer. Yes, Jim, I can stay. I’m not so sure it was anything about me personally as it was about his need to be with people. That was the Jim Owen I’ve known since the day we met. And there wasn’t a time that we spoke that he didn’t remind me about giving me a little scoop for a story, and eventually admitting that it got him in some hot water. But, he said, it was the right thing to do.

And there you have it, two principles of Jim that I believe so many people grew to admire: his love of people and his kind ways of wanting to do the right thing. He will be remembered. He will be missed. And he will leave a mark on the City of Batavia and the hearts of its citizens. Good night Jim, may you be in peace.

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Top Photo of Jim Owen with his proclamation from City Council deeming him as Mayor of Redfield Parkway, with his cat Rosei during a visit to Crossroads House, with Linda Conroy, wearing his Thanksgiving hat, with his sister Kathy, and another favorite Kathy, Gov. Kathy Hochul, accepting the Mayor proclamation from City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., with the late Stephen Hawley Sr., who he apparently reminded at the 18th hole that they were tied because Hawley had "forgotten" a few strokes; with teacher Sarah Gahagan, at the new Frank E. Owen auditorium sign with students and Superintendent Jason Smith and Principal Paul Kesler; getting a visit from Aden Chua, at GO ART!, with Sarah Gahagan at a sporting event, with Kathy Hochul at a Muckdogs game; and in his neighborhood. Photos are by Joanne Beck, Howard Owens, and submitted.

January 19, 2023 - 6:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jim owen, batavia, news.

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The Batavian has further coverage coming.

January 4, 2023 - 12:30am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, crossroads house, batavia, jim owen.

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Jim Owen enjoyed a milkshake Tuesday morning and asked The Batavian to take his picture during her visit to see him at Crossroads House.

Owen is no typical City of Batavia resident, and taking his picture has become commonplace amongst local media during special events. So commonplace, in fact, that when he saw a second volunteer, he wanted a picture taken with her as well. 

Crowned the Mayor of Redfield Parkway by City Council for his longtime civic and neighborly involvement in the community, Owen has been fighting his most important battle this year: esophageal cancer.

His temporary residency at United Memorial Medical Center brought many visitors to his room, and the flow of people has not stopped at the Liberty Street comfort care home that he moved into more recently. It has been so busy with well-wishers that it has, at times, been hard to keep up with the continuous traffic.

Crossroads staff and friends have been maintaining his online presence and posting updates. This was the latest one:

“Update on Jim, and a reminder from the Crossroads staff. Jim is still resting and being well taken care of at Crossroads House. Visitors are still welcome and very much appreciated; however, we want everyone to know that Jim has grown somewhat more confused over the last several days.  The staff feels that the visitors Jim receives are comforting and beneficial to him, but asked us to remind everyone to keep the visits to no more than 15 to 30 minutes in length so he can get his rest.

Again, please do not let this message discourage anyone from coming to visit, but just be advised of the Crossroads House staff wishes which they feel are best for Jim. Thank you, and we will keep you informed of any changes or news.”

Likewise, people have responded with likes, hearts, care emojis and fond messages of encouragement. Visitors may also sign a guest registry and offer words of comfort to Jim, who, despite seeming tired, still has his sense of humor and kindness intact.

During Tuesday’s visit, he said that volunteer Julie Mancuso lives on his street. He then corrected himself to say that “I live on her street.” And as they discussed which street was the best in the city, he gave a thoughtful pause and rephrased it all together.

“The best street is the street you live on,” he said.

He knew this reporter and The Batavian’s publisher — who he refers to as his adopted brother. (Jim’s last name is Owen versus Howard Owens.)

When many people in his situation would be thinking about things they missed out on in life, Jim talked about how he wanted to do more for the community during Tuesday's visit, Owens said. 

"He said he always tried to treat people well because 'when you feel good about yourself, you do good things. You make a contribution,'" Owens said. "He said he would like to see a scholarship set up to help people with his disease. Jim Owen has spent his life trying to teach us all to be better human beings, and even now, he's still trying to spread that message."

Jim seems to be absorbed in wanting to help people, help the community, and perhaps even help the world in some way. He described himself as just a pin or cog in the wheel of life, but if he can make at least one person happy, he has accomplished something.

Jim Owen, you have done far more than that. You have reached out to neighbors and friends, shared tidbits of Batavia and Owen family history, garnered support for the naming of the BHS auditorium after your late father Frank E., fought for the restoration of Redfield’s well-known pillars that have served as guideposts to the VA Medical Center, and greeted, supported, chatted with and smiled upon countless folks during your longtime commitment to Batavia and its citizens.

That’s not only worthy of a milkshake and a photo, but also a grateful nod of thanks from your friends and community members.

Mission accomplished.

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Top photo of city resident and Mayor of Redfield Parkway Jim  Owen enjoying a milkshake with volunteer Cathy Winding Tuesday at Crossroads House in Batavia; and above, also with volunteer Gail Wysko. Photos by Joanne Beck.

August 26, 2022 - 9:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Frank E. Owen, jim owen, batavia, music, notify.

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The way Jim Owen tells the story, his father Frank had very high standards when it came to music, and not every Owen in the family made the cut.

“My sister Kathy was a very good singer, and my brother Robert was a very good singer, and then there’s Jim,” the honorary Mayor of Redfield Parkway said, adding that his father wasn’t mean about it. “He was very encouraging of me, he knew I liked sports … cross-country, basketball, and golf.”

Jim just saw a dream come true with the dedication of his father’s name for Batavia High School’s auditorium. Frank E. Owen was a very well-educated man, and one that would be “humbled but very appreciative” of the acknowledgment of how much he contributed to the music program, Jim said.

After a 37-year career as music director at BHS, the elder Owen joined the Board of Education, eventually earning the rank of president. Those “very high standards” came into play when Jim shared his intent to apply for a teaching job at the city school district.

“He said ‘no way.’ He was very ethical and didn’t think I should work in the district,” Jim said.

So Jim worked as a teacher in Sacketts Harbor, and later at Hamburg Central School, where he enjoyed his work and coaching cross-country for 35 years. He retired from Hamburg Central in 2003 and then -- finally -- obtained a job as a substitute teacher at his original choice of Batavia City Schools. 

Frank's legacy
Frank founded a school band in 1930 and raised money to buy new uniforms and instruments. He later founded the community orchestra in 1947 and was inducted into the Music of Note Hall of Fame. He would also “go the extra mile to get students into college,” Jim said, “by using his great influence.”

It would seem as though Jim was destined to be a smart, teacher-type, given his father’s background and his mom, Natalie Walker Owen, who spoke Latin, French and Spanish, and was on the library board. Jim has been involved in education for 55 years and counting, he said, and has shown that same appreciation for his students and colleagues as his dad did.

He chuckled a bit remembering that his sister Kathy (who died in 2019) was fooling around in class one day, and dad kicked her out. Those standards again came into play, and “he didn’t have favorites.”

“In that sense, he wanted you to be focused. He was selective and wanted good quality,” Jim said. “One of his great contributions was, he was very, very proud of his choristers. They were singing on WBTA and on Jay Gordon Bridge armed force broadcast. Some former students in Korea could listen to it.”

As much as Frank has been discussed in preparation for and during the dedication event, there are tidbits that haven’t been listed. He was a violinist, raised in England, and would help kids of all nationalities, Jim said. He was very good in spelling and articulation and even helped local announcer Chuck Platt practice before going on air at WBTA.

“Dad would teach him how to articulate for broadcasts,” Jim said.

Frank worked in Williamsport, Penn. before applying for a job in Batavia. The rest, as it’s been said, is history in that he reformed the music department. He always preferred to use his middle initial in his name (E is for Earl, by the way), even though he sometimes was called Frankie by mistake.

Current high school band Director and Music Department Chairwoman Jane Haggett has heard all about the senior Owen from Jim, who has done a lot of substitute teaching in the district. Naming the auditorium after Frank means something important for the district as a whole, she said.

“I think it just really reinforces Batavia's desire to have a strong music education for their students. I also think that it's in relationship to drama, and our musical productions, that it all correlates to each other,” she said. “We wouldn’t have a musical production club and produce our musicals without our choral program and our instrumental program and so forth. It just wouldn't happen. Or not as well, I should say. But I have to say that it gives the music students a voice.”

Haggett knows what it’s like to have music in your soul; she knew at an early age what her career was going to be, she said.

“I started playing piano at age five, and flute when I was in fifth grade, and by the time I was in sixth grade, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go into music. I knew I wanted to teach. I didn't know what level or for high school teacher or elementary, or just a private lesson student, but I know I wanted to do something in music,” she said. “I felt like I was successful. And it made me happy. So that's why I pursued it.”

Likewise, as a young violinist, Frank Owen seemed to know his direction in life. While at the city school district, he taught the likes of City Councilwoman Patti Pacino and state Assemblyman Steve Hawley. Jim credits Pacino for putting much time and effort into the dedication, inviting fellow alums and pulling together notes about the late music director. Learning music from Frank E. Owen wasn’t just ordinary education, Pacino said, “it was magical.”

Jim’s parents “all of the fine qualities that Batavia citizens represent,” and Frank especially added drive, enthusiasm and talent to music education, Jim said. His dad even recruited a special guest to visit the district: John Philip Sousa.

Sousa, a patriotic composer who died in 1932, served as the 17th director of The President's Own band from 1880 to 1892. The most famous director of the band, he wrote the national march "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and the official march of the Marine Corps, "Semper Fidelis." Jim has an autobiography written by Sousa, “Marching Along,” with Sousa’s signature, made out to Frank E. Owen in 1929.

Not too shabby Frank E. Owen.

See related story of dedication HERE.

July 12, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Redfield Parkway, batavia, notify, jim owen.

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Following years of jokingly being addressed as a key dignitary for the Redfield Parkway neighborhood, Jim Owen finally got his wish.

The native Batavian, former teacher, coach, active citizen and well-known figure around town was dubbed the title Mayor of Redfield during City Council’s meeting Monday.

After reading some of Owen’s history, Council President Eugene Jankowski presented the 1961 Batavia High School grad with a proclamation to recognize his “many years of dedicated service within the city and the Redfield neighborhood.”

“The City Council of the city of Batavia hereby extends this proclamation to Jim Owen for his devotion, dedication and service to the city of Batavia and names him the Mayor of Redfield Parkway,” Jankowski said.

If you don’t know Owen, an affable guy with a sense of humor, a coach’s perseverance and a teacher’s knowledge of Batavia’s history, then you must not have attended a ribbon-cutting, school event, business opening or a myriad of other activities that Owen has made certain to attend.

Long regarded for his involvement on his two lane street wedged between the veteran’s hospital and West Main Street, Owen probably could have run for Mr. Batavia. He’s the friendly face and sociable personality at, well, most everything.

Unofficially, Owen has been called mayor by many who know him, and he has gladly accepted the title.

James (Jim) Owen grew up with his family on Redfield Parkway and made the seasonally decorated street part of his life for nearly 80 years. It's lined with Christmas trees in winter, jack-o-lanterns in the fall and baskets of flowers in spring and summer. He’s the son of Frank E. Owen (whose name now graces Batavia High School’s auditorium), and Natalie Walker Owen. Jim lived on the parkway with his siblings, Kathy and Robert.

After graduating high school, Owen attended Morrisville Institue of Technology, followed by Rochester Institute of Technology. He was first hired as teacher in Sacketts Harbor and later at Hamburg Central School, where he enjoyed his work and coaching cross-country for 35 years.

He retired from Hamburg Central in 2003. Owen then returned to his beloved 2 Refield Parkwy home, obtained a job as a substitute teacher at Batavia City Schools and assisted with “all things Redfield.” Those who do know Jim Owen call him mayor for his exhaustive participation in his neighborhood and informal role as ambassador in the community, his proclamation states.

In December 2021 GO ART! dedicated its library to the Owen family, which includes his father Frank, a music teacher who developed much of the music program at the city schools. A man of humility, Jim Owen has been first to point the attention elsewhere, primarily to his late sister Kathy for all of the work that she did in their neighborhood and beyond, and to his family.

After offering his “warm thanks” to council for the honor, he reminded the audience — which included a group of his Redfield neighbors — that “you are not only honoring me, you are also honoring Kathy Owen, the queen of Redfield Parkway, and the Owen family.”

He took a trip down memory lane while providing a little history lesson about his neighborhood. The corner lot, number 2, was previously owned before being sold to his parents “by a very prominent lady at that time,” he said. That was none other than Edna Gruber Reeves, a well-known “professional madam.”

His dad, Frank, made sure to handle the closing of the property sale at an attorney’s office, as he thought it was much more proper than to be seen walking out of Edna’s place.

After everyone had a giggle, Owen thanked neighbors Mike Riggi, Michael Dibacco and Linda Conroy for coining the term “Mayor of Redfield Parkway” for Owen, and the many others who kept that moniker alive all this time.

“Now it is official,” he said. “Thanks to the City Council and all the people that made this day special.”

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Top photo: Batavia resident Jim Owen, aka "the Mayor of Redfield Parkway," shows the proclamation given to him during City Council's meeting Monday at City Hall. Above, City Council President Eugene Jankowski reads the proclamation to make Owen's title official. Photos by Joanne Beck.

August 23, 2021 - 11:42am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Kathy Hochul, jim owen, New York State governor.

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When Jim Owen, well known as “The Mayor of Redfield Parkway,” had 16-year-old Kathleen Courtney as an 11th-grader in his typing class at Hamburg Junior-Senior High School, little did he know that someday she would become the first female governor of New York State.

But he did see some personality traits and skill sets that he says have served her well throughout her political career.

Courtney was part of that typing class in 1975, about eight years into Owen’s teaching career that included 36 years as a full-time instructor and the last 18 years as a substitute teacher in the Batavia City School District.

Forty-six years later, Courtney, now Kathy Hochul, will assume the state’s highest office on Tuesday. She is succeeding Andrew Cuomo, who is stepping down following a state attorney general’s report that he sexually harassed 11 women.

Cuomo has repeatedly denied the accusations, but said he is resigning in the best interest of the state.

The “best interests of the state” will become the responsibility of Hochul, 62 (she will be 63 on Aug. 27), who, according to Owen, is prepared to do a great job.

“One of the things is that she is a person who communicates with many people,” Owen said of Hochul, who has been New York’s lieutenant governor since 2014. “In my opinion, she makes people feel important; she makes people feel comfortable, and I think she is a great listener.

“I always remember when she said, ‘If it’s a Republican idea and it’s a good idea, I’ll take it. If it’s a Democratic idea and it’s a good idea, I’ll take it. If it’s a Conservative idea, I’ll take it; if it’s a Liberal idea, I will take it. Her bottom line is that she is going to do the best for the people of our state.”

Owen admitted that it’s impossible to please everyone, but is convinced that Hochul will put her best foot forward.

“Obviously, you can’t win everybody’s opinion, but she will do her darnedest.” He said. “She’s a fighter. She’s not that tall, but she grew up with a family of great athletes … good competitors, and she is, too. Of course, in typing, she did her work.”

The teacher and student have kept in touch over the years; they usually meet at Batavia Muckdogs’ games when Hochul is in town. Owen said he got a surprise call earlier this month.

“Last Friday night, Friday the 13th, about 5:30 in the afternoon, I was at Stafford Country Club and I got a phone call from 716 (area code). I thought it may be a scam, but I decided to answer it,” he offered. “Well, it’s Kathy. She’s calling me, thanking me for saying nice words about her in a story on Spectrum News – which I thought was kind of neat. That was kind of a class act that she would give me a call.”

Owen also was quoted in a story published today in the New York Daily News:

“Jim Owen, who taught her in a 28-student typing class when she was a junior, said he would not necessarily have guessed at her political future given her soft-spoken and studious nature. But he said her determination shined.

“She was a very hard worker,” recalled Owen, 78, who’s now retired and lives in Batavia. “She made the teacher look good.”

Hochul, on Aug. 12, confirmed that she plans to run for a full term as governor in 2022.

Photos: Kathy Courtney Hochul's graduation photo; her and Jim Owen at a Hamburg Alumni Foundation event; the duo at a Batavia Muckdogs' game. Photos submitted by Jim Owen.

July 7, 2021 - 6:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy owen, jim owen, Redfield Parkway, batavia, news.

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Kathy Owen dedicated a portion of the last years of her life to ensuring the stone pillars that act as markers to the opening of Redfield Parkway in Batavia were saved and restored.

It was a lot of work convincing city officials that it was actually the city that owned the pillars, that the city had a responsibility to maintain the pillars, and to finally invest in restoring the pillars.

It took eight years.

More than a year ago, Owen died.  

Yesterday evening, more than 50 Redfield Parkway residents, along with other community members, gathered in the driveway of her brother, Jim Owen, to dedicate a marker commemorating Kathy Owen and her tireless efforts on behalf of the Redfield Parkway community.

Owen was known as the "Queen of Redfield Parkway" (Jim is the "Mayor of Redfield Parkway"), and was responsible for carrying on the Redfield traditions of flags, flowers, and Christmas trees but even in her absence, her spirit remains as her friends and neighbors keep these traditions alive.

"The plaque says Kathy was an advocate of Redfield Parkway," said City Council President Eugene Jankowski. "All of you are advocates of Redfield Parkway and you make the City look even better.”

Jim got a bit emotional when thanking all who turned out to remember his sister.

"She would be very proud," Owen said. "As you know, it is her birthday today and she’s looking down saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you very much.’ ”

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May 18, 2011 - 1:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-26, Kathy Hochul, jim owen.

Jim Owen, who taught 35 years in Hamburg and is now a substitute teacher in Batavia City Schools, came to the candidate forum at the YWCA today to see his former typing student, Kathy Hochul. She is running for Congress and was one of Owen's students in the mid-1970s. (Previous Story.)

May 15, 2011 - 2:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-26, Kathy Hochul, jim owen.

Popular local teacher Jim Owen, who has been turning students into fans for more than four decades, has an interest in the NY-26 special election race that's a bit different from a lot of other Genesee County residents.

One of his former students is on the ballot.

Back in the mid-1970s, Kathy Courtney took a typing class from Owen.

Eventually, she would marry Bill Hochul, become a member of the Hamburg Town Board, then clerk of Erie County and now, she's the Democratic nominee for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"As a teacher, you have students in a classroom as juniors or seniors and you have no idea where they might go," Owen said. "Then when you read the paper that they've been very successfully -- obviously, I had nothing to do with it -- but it's nice to say, 'hey, I had her as a student.'"

Kathy Hochul isn't the only famous name that Owen can list as a typing student during his 35 years of teaching at Hamburg High School. 

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Tom Toles was also a student.

"I wish I'd gotten one of his cartoons back then," Owen said.

Owen, who also coached her brothers and cousins in track and field, remembers Hochul as a diligent student.

"Now, in typing, we don't communicate too much because you're supposed to be typing, and she was," said Owen. "She did her work."

Owen wasn't sure Kathy would even remember him.

On the campaign trail today, Hochul had time for a brief conversation and said Jim Owen is certainly "somebody stuck in my memory bank" as an important person in her young life.

"The students loved him," Hochul said. "He had a real way to take something as mundane as typing and make it real fun. He was very popular with all of the students."

A staunch Republican, Owen won't reveal who he's voting for, but admitted he can't help but root for Kathy.

"It's kind of neat to say, 'Here's a young lady I had in class and now she's running for Congress,'" Owen said. "I wish her a lot of luck. I hope things work out for her."

He added that he thinks "all three" candidates, especially the "two young ladies," would represent the community well, and he's expecting close results -- so close that a recount may be necessary.

Now a substitute teacher for Batavia City Schools, Owen doesn't know if he'll be required to work Tuesday. If he's off, he plans to attended the candidates' forum at 11 a.m. at the YWCA on North Street. If he makes it, it will be the first time teacher and student have seen each other in more than 20 years.

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