CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -John J. Owen (Jack), 96, former president of Millers Falls Tool Co., and the University of Virginia's first vice president for development, died Nov. 17 in Charlottesville.
He was born at The Presidio, California, on Feb. 21, 1916, to Col. Leartus J. Owen, MD, and Ethel Christine Rogers (of Greenfield). The family moved often, but eventually settled on a farm in Charlottesville. In 1939, Jack earned a BS (with honors) in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia, then began work at Westinghouse Electric in Baltimore.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he promptly enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army
. During World War II, he served in England and Europe on the staff of General Bradley as an ordnance officer. He was discharged as a major in 1946.
Following the war, he worked at Millers Falls Tool Co. as head of the Mechanical Engineering Department. In 1950, during the Korean War
, the Army recalled him to the Pentagon. In recognition of his meritorious service during and after World War II, he was awarded the Bronze Star
and made a Knight of the Order of the Oaken Wreath of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
In 1951 he married Helen Bissell (known as Apple). They moved in 1952 with her two daughters to Greenfield, MA., where he returned to the Millers Falls Co. as assistant plant manager. In the course of his career at Millers Falls he served as advertising manager, assistant to the executive vice-president, executive vice-president, and was a member of the board of directors. In 1962, he became company president. In 1966, Jack retired from Millers Falls to enter the field of educational fund-raising.
He began at Deerfield Academy as Director of Development under headmaster Frank Boyden. In 1969, he became Director of Corporate Relations at Yale University, and in 1971 he moved to The University of Connecticut Foundation. In 1975, he returned to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to serve as the first vice-president for Development. Under his direction, the University launched and successfully completed its first capital campaign. After mandatory retirement in 1981, Owen remained as a consultant in the development office until fully retiring at age 70 in 1986.
In the years following his retirement, he continued to connect donors with various projects at U.Va. and received the Raven Award in 1994 for these efforts. He was a member of the IMP Society and the Seven Society.
Jack's long life was a living history, and his family loved to hear his stories. As a boy, he saw the first traffic light in the USA in Boston, and delivered milk by horse-drawn wagon. He embraced digital photography and cheered the landing of the Mars Rover. He traveled widely and had friends and connections across many walks of life.
Jack is survived by his children: Julie Rea and her husband Samuel of Arlington, VA, Elizabeth Rogerson and her husband Edward of Milton, MA, Christina Stahl and her husband Gary of New York, NY, and Charles Owen and his wife Deborah of Charlottesville. He is also survived by his seven grandchildren: Alice Rogerson, Catherine R. Hogan, Julia P. Owen, John J. Owen, Carter B. Owen, Peter D. Owen and Stephanie H. Owen, and by his great-granddaughter Hadley E. Rogerson-Leach.
Jack is predeceased by his wife, Helen B. Owen (Apple); his brother, David R. Owen, and his son, John D. Owen.
A memorial service for friends and family will be held in Charlottesville on Dec. 15.