Charles Thomas “Tommy” Owen, 94, was called to join his Heavenly Father, and beloved wife Margaret and daughter Janie Hurst, following a short illness. He died at his home in Salisbury, on April 3, 2023.
Tommy was born November 18, 1928 in Rowan County, NC to Ruth Lippard and Wilbern Leon Owen, who precede him in death. Also preceding him in death are his brother Leon Owen and sister Margaret Rogers.
Tommy met the love of his life Margaret Rice when she was in 8th grade and he was in 9th grade. Tommy was smitten with her the moment he first noticed her beautiful green eyes and dark hair, saying she was a really good-looking girl. Tommy and Margaret shared a love of basketball, playing many games together — most of which he won, despite her being a very good and sometimes rough player. Tommy graduated from Mt. Ulla High School in 1947. In the 1947 Mt Ulla yearbook, “The Keepsake”, the Class Prophet reported that she “found that Thomas Owen married the junior girl of whom he was so fond”. Turns out that the prophet was correct. They married on Labor Day 1949.
After graduation, Tommy went to automotive school in Salisbury as a student and later a teacher. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1952 and completed basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. He was assigned to the 3450th Technical Training Group at Frances E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wy. While living in Cheyenne, Tommy and Margaret had two children, Janie and Wilburn (Wib). Tommy attained the rank of Staff Sargent and received the National Defense Medal and Good Conduct Medal. He received his honorable discharge in February 1956 and they moved back to the family “Rice” farm off Rice Farm Road where they made a wonderful life raising their two children in an atmosphere of love, fun and faith.
Upon returning to Salisbury, Tommy was hired as a field mechanic for Carolina Tractor and Equipment Co. Tommy moved up through the ranks at Carolina Tractor and upon his retirement, 36 years later, he was a used equipment evaluator in the sales department. After retirement, Tommy and Margaret enjoyed square dancing for many years and were very active in the Cardinal Squares in Salisbury. They also enjoyed traveling with friends to Hawaii and Wyoming, and annual trips to the coast with family. Avid baseball fans, Margaret and Tommy would travel to Florida for spring training. When not traveling, they would spend hours together watching the Atlanta Braves play. They also were season ticket holders for Rowan American Legion baseball and never missed a game.
Tommy loved to hunt and fish, and when he was not in the field pursuing these sports, he was at a baseball game. He spent many years bird hunting with Wib and brothers-in-law Lonnie Rice and Russell Rice. Once deer moved into western Rowan County and bird hunting became difficult, he started deer hunting. He loved his annual muzzleloading deer hunting trip with Wib and always kept the freezer full of venison. As wild turkey became established in Rowan, he also enjoyed turkey hunting. Fall fishing trips to the coast were a favorite, and he spent many
days in a boat or fishing from the surf with Elmer Schenk. Last November, on his birthday, he enjoyed a surf fishing trip to Topsail Island with Wib and grandsons Curtis (Curt) Owen and Will Hurst.
Tommy also loved to garden and made sure all of the yards were mowed. He planted a huge garden every year and Janie would can and freeze the harvest to ensure they all had garden fresh food. He also loved peanuts and always had a peanut crop to pull and put up. Parched peanuts were his favorite.
A life-long member of Salem Lutheran Church, Tommy loved his Savior, the Lord Jesus, with all his heart, putting his faith first in all that he did. Church and his faith were integral parts of his life and he believed in service and in giving back.
Tommy is survived by his son, Wib (Jodie); son-in-law Hugh Hurst, his sister Gilda Brown and his sister-in-law, Naomi Rice. In addition, “Paw-Paw” is survived by five grandchildren whom he adored: Addie Hurst, Will Hurst (Emily), Curt Owen, Candice Walsh (Sean), and Jack Owen, as well as three great-grandchildren Emma Beth Walsh, Corbyn Walsh and Janie Walsh. Tommy is also survived by a host of loving relatives and friends.
The family will be forever grateful to his long-time caregivers, Jeannie Weant, Sandy Leonard, Tisha Starbuck and Amy Leonard — we are beyond thankful for your commitment to Tommy.
The family will have a memorial graveside service at Salem Lutheran Church on Saturday April 15 at 11:00 a.m. Visitation will be in the church parlor beginning at 10:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Salem Lutheran Church or to the NC Wildlife Endowment Fund, https://www.ncwildlife.org/donate.
Lyerly Funeral Home is serving the Owen family. Online condolences may be made at www.lyerlyfuneralhome.com.
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