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.”
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.