JANE OWEN
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OWEN--Jane Blaffer 1915 - 2010. Jane Blaffer Owen CBE, of Houston, was the daughter of Robert Lee Blaffer and Sarah Campbell Blaffer and wife of Kenneth Dale Owen, a descendant of Robert Owen. Her father helped start Exxon and on her mother's side, the former Texaco. She was the proud mother of three daughters; Jane Dale Owen, Caroline Campbell Owen Coleman and Anne Dale Owen-Pontez. She attended the very first Kinkaid School. She graduated from the Ethel Walker School in Connecticut. She studied at Bryn Mawr, The Washington School of Diplomacy and The Union Theological Seminary in New York, and later, studied under the late Theologian Paul Tillich. She once commented, "To whom much is given, much is expected," "People don't understand generosity...to give is to receive." Armed with her gifts, extraordinary intelligence, grace, charm and her own innate sense of style, she began her quest. This free spirit with an untethered generosity turned her sights on New Harmony, IN. She married Kenneth Owen in 1941 and he introduced her for the first time to his New Harmony birth place, a faded town on the Wabash that once held the dreams of generations past. It was founded as a utopian society in the hopes of creating "a community of equality." New Harmony became her pallet and unfettered she set about to preserve its history, restore its homes and bring some of the greatest minds and artists to its door. With renewed dreams, she had hopes for a better world for all humanity. Of course she did it with a dash of her own verve. With passion for people from all walks of life; she provided an atmosphere of vitality and acceptance. With her charm, vision, and insatiable drive she tried to create a more interdependent world. It began in 1958, when she started the R.L. Blaffer Foundation to preserve and promote the historical and educational attributes of New Harmony. She commissioned Philip Johnson to build The Roofless Church where one could see the sky and embrace people of all faiths while aspiring towards a more united and peaceful world. Jacques Lipchitz fashioned the bronze Madonna and Child at its center. She created a park for Theologian Paul Tillich in a wooded glade to cherish his desire that his ashes be scattered in New Harmony. She convinced The Eli Lilly Foundation to build an athenaeum as a visitor center in New Harmony. Richard Meyer was her choice. Steven de Staebler was prodded to produce three granite pieces to set in the wheat fields, "The Pieta, Angel Gabriel and The Vision on St. Benedict." She encouraged Jeff Sparks from Indianapolis to start the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Kent Schuette, Purdue architectural school, to replicate the ancient labyrinth from the Chartres Cathedral. Frances Lepaux, Cannon of the Cathedral of Chartres dedicated Labyrinth for meditation, and prayer. Imminent British sculptor Simon Verity created the Fountain of Orpheus placed at its apex. She was awarded the prestigious Louise DuPont Crown Shield Award, The National Preservation's highest accolade and honored by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. She received The Sachem Award from Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to recognize a lifetime of excellence and virtue she shared this inaugural award with college coaching legend John Wooden and Rev. Theodore Hesburgh CSC, President Emeritus of the University of Norte Dame. With all her acclaim she lived a modest simple life; she was often seen in her hat and golf cart chauffeuring visitors and guests around New Harmony. In Houston she was a major supporter of Blaffer Gallery and University of Houston's G. Hines College of Architecture. She was honored for her lifetime support of the arts and architecture. She and Dean Joe Mashurn, collaborated with Ben Nicholson, CAI, and a class of University of Houston architecture students to build Frederick Kiesler's lifelong wish to realize "The Grotto for Meditation," now standing at the University of Houston. She founded the English Speaking Union, she was the first president of the Allied Arts Council, a founder of the International Seaman's Center of Houston, Trustee of C.G. Jung Educational Center, Sustaining Trustee of the Univeristy of Houston Moores School of Music. Served on the board of The Houston Symphony and The Contemporary Arts Association. She holds Honorary Doctorates of Arts and Humanities from USI, Kenyon College, Ball State University, Butler Theological Seminary and Purdue University Doctor of Letters. She was one of two persons in Texas to have received Commander of The British Empire, bestowed by her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. It was befitting that Jane Owen's heart should stop on the longest and brightest day of the year at her home in Houston surrounded by family. She will be greatly missed by her family and many, many friends. No one will forget her joy of life, boundless energy and her positive attitude that gave us such hope and a belief that all things are possible and that miracles can happen. Jane is survived by her sister, Joyce von Bothmer of New York; daughters: Jane D. Owen of Palm Beach, Anne D. Owen-Pontez of Houston and husband Hal Pontez; devoted grandchildren: Erik O. Arneberg, Ingrid A. Grados, James O. Coleman and Abigail Owen-Pontez; and Great-Grandchildren: Sarah Grados and Jane Owen-Coleman. The memorial service is to be conducted at half-past ten o'clock in the morning on Saturday, the 10th of July, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road in Houston, where the Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr., Rector, and the Very Rev. J. Pittman McGehee, former Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, are to officiate. In lieu of customary remembrances, charitable donations may be directed to: Dr. W.K. Alfred Yung, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, P.O. Box 4486, Houston, TX 77210-4486; St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 717 Sage, Houston, TX 77056; R. L. Blaffer Foundation, P.O. Box 514, New Harmony, IN 47631. Services in Houston are with Geo. H. Lewis & Sons - The Funeral Directors Since 1936, 713.789.3005.


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Published in New York Times on Jul. 4, 2010.
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31 entries
June 6, 2016
What a privilege to have gotten to know Mrs. Owen. Her spirit will always be felt present in New Harmony, and all who met her there will for ever be thankful and see her in all that she did to infuse New Harmony with beauty and spirit
Karl Peterson
June 2, 2011
What I would give for just one more long lovely day being and talking with Jane .. I miss her more and more and yet as she taught She is with me always.
Merri Leffel
May 12, 2011
The entire Teleki family and extended family in Warksworth, Canada send our belated condolences at your loss. It is a loss for all who knew Jane and experienced her beautiful spirit of giving. She leaves behind many treasures in the legacy of her support in the arts and Humanities. She will be greatly missed.
Arved and Ruth Teleki
July 25, 2010
I remember Jane gave her love to all who came within her reach, as I did for a period of time in the 60's. Even though much time has passed, I shall never forget her. She was and will continue to be an inspiration.
George Waterman
July 15, 2010
What an honor to meet such a beautiful and wonderful lady in Mrs. Owen. On behalf of all of us at the Preferred Hotel Group we cheerish having the New Harmony Inn as one of our treasured independant hotels. I will never forget my initial meeting with Mrs. Owen as it was a step back in time seeing her with her blue flowing dress adorned with a spring hat and holding freshly cut flowers placed in a basket in her arms. I smile at this wonderful image and remember her so fondly. She IS New Harmony and will be missed.
Micarl Hill
July 12, 2010
I am very please to have met Ms. Jane once in May 2010 , in New Harmony. I was charmed by her and know the world has lost a friend.
T. McClung
July 7, 2010
Mrs. Owen was a wonderful person. Her passion for a art was inspirational. I can remember her walking me and my father around New Harmony telling us the history of each newly aquired piece. Her hard work restoring New Harmony will always be appreciated. It is such a beautiful place thanks to Jane. Vickie Stanonis Poynter(The Woodlands, TX)
Vickie Poynter
July 7, 2010
Jane Owen lived such a long wonderful life because she had so much to give to New Harmony, Houston and Humanity. "Cathy Ellis ( Red Hook, Ny)
Cathy Ellis
July 6, 2010
An organization I belong to has been Blessed to rent The Barn Abbey annually, a part of the Blaffer Foundation. It is such a beautiful building and has such a great energy. To stay there for a weekend is to feel one almost knows 'Jane'. It just speaks of her grace, her beauty, her generousity. Thank you Dear One for all you have given us. May you rest in Peace. You will be in the hearts of all who visit New Harmony now and for generations to come.
Donna Heinlin
July 6, 2010
We moved to New Harmony in 1995. It didn't take long to hear about Mrs. Owen, & the many things she did for & in the community. It took longer to hear about the good she did in the wider world.
My mother-in-law,Virginia, moved to town in 1997, and she & my daughters Katie & Lora became docents at the Cathedral Labyrinth. That meant getting to know Mrs. Owen, too. She would drop by to visit Virginia, bring her flowers, and sit & visit awhile.
Many years later, our families merged, it was my priviledge to spend more time with her & get to know her better. We discussed New Harmony, families, religion, cats, attended functions, picked flowers, enjoyed golf cart rides, shared meals, and much much more.
As I read her obituary, I learned so much more about her. But, the person I learned to respect, and treasure is the grand lady that shared time with me, and set an example of how to live life fully, be generous with a gracious heart, determination, and caring.
She told me to wear a hat because it protected the skin, and because "...then you don't have to worry what your hair looks like."
While she appreciated the many accolades her efforts reaped, she wasn't fond of taling about them. Above all she loved her family & God.
When I sometimes avoid the news because I find it depressing, she would still go over to view the evening news at another house because she didn't have a TV in her home. She wanted to stay current and informed. A lesson I will try to emulate.
I still have trouble talking about her in anything but the present tense. I know that New Harmony will miss her; but I know her fondest wish would be for New Harmony to contiue to blossom & grow.
To her daughters, grandchildren, extended family, many friends, and all that admired her, I extend my condolences at the passing of a wise woman born of a gentler time, with her eye on the present,& with the ambition to make tomorrow brighter for many.

Sincerely, Nancy Shepherd DeFries
Nancy DeFries
July 6, 2010
I last spent a moment with Jane at New Harmony in May. It was hot and I was walking, she was in the golf cart and making a breeze. She picked me up and enlisted my aid with flower arranging. Company was coming to stay in one of the old houses. We parked, opened the doors and windows for airing and set about finding appropriate vessels for the flowers. I offered up a small ceramic pitcher from the shelf in the kitchen, but Jane shook her head. “The pitcher must stay where it belongs.”
As I separated the sweetpeas from the larger lilies, Jane added the water to the vases and we arranged, putting pots of flowers here and there, adding life and color to the still air of the shuttered house, making it welcoming.
Outside, Jane stared at an abandoned bicycle with disdain. “It’s been there two days.” Her expression said, “whatever shall we do about this, Y?” She twinkled with the absurdity of this rusty bicycle betraying her lovely path. She didn’t ask, but we both knew I would spirit the bike to its proper place. As I pushed it toward its rack, Jane rode away to spread beauty to the stillness.
She was 80 when I met her, 95 when I last saw her. Tall, beautiful, serene and calm, a model for any who fear the ravages of the long tomorrow, or anyone inundated with messages of perpetual youth. Jane wore her age like a halo, a beacon saying: come one, come all, witness this model for living: grace, giving, care, humor, industry.
I am sorry she is gone from my life, and I extend the deepest sympathy to you who knew her long and loved her well. I am grateful I had the privilege.

My best to the friends and family of Jane Owen.

Y York
Y York
July 6, 2010
The name "Jane" will forever personify this gracious lady who loved the simple beauty of life and nature. Her love for New Harmony will live on in the legacy she left here.
Maggie Rapp
July 6, 2010
I first met Jane Owen at a Ropewalk Conference in 1995, when I developed an infection and was, I guess, walking unsteadily. Jane was driving by in her golf cart and stopped to check on me. She took me home, gave me some home remedies, brought me back to the inn, and breaking off a branch of blossom by the door handed it to me, saying, “This will complete the cure.” It did, and we remained in touch ever since. I treasure the little hand-written notes I have from her, the week I spent at the Poet’s House at her invitation, and the dinners I shared with her at the Red Geranium on visits to New Harmony. A more generous, benevolent, supportive, and deeply spiritual person could hardly be imagined.

I had dinner with Jane last fall, when she spoke of her hope to be in New Harmony in 2014 for the 200th anniversary of its founding. That would have made her 99, and she seemed so strong that I thought she truly would make it. I’m so sorry it was not to be.

Jane was committed to the political goal of universal understanding, but it seems clear that she was also all about plain beauty-- in nature and all the arts. Many of my own ideas about how the spaces we inhabit ought to be shaped come from visiting New Harmony. The rooms of the inn have ever been clear and serene, with wood floors, good light, and original art. The gardens and walkways are invitations to rest and thoughtful meditation.

Jane Owen’s New Harmony is a testament to the power of the the human hand creating order out of chaos, to Keats' notion that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." I’m not a traditional believer, but I find New Harmony to be a place of rest and support for the soul. I'm extremely sorry that Jane is gone and extend heartfelt sympathy to all her family. I will truly miss her presence in the world.
Carol Niederlander
July 6, 2010
Jane touched many lives. It was my pleasure to have been her caregiver for a short period of time in New Harmony, IN. before my retirement from Visiting Nurse Plus. Shine on Jane. Heaven always needs a new, bright light. Kathy Burg. Owensville, IN>
July 5, 2010
A very fine lady that will truly be missed
catherine baurer
July 5, 2010
She did mot me but I knew of her when I lived in Mt.Vernon she will truly be missed
carolyn (acuff) tolliver
July 3, 2010
Wonderful the day our paths crossed and gracious she was with conversation. We will indeed do as she requested, "keep loving Hew Harmony"...
The Ron Phillips Family
June 30, 2010
She will be greatly missed by her family, and many, many friends. No one will forget her joy of life, her boundless energy and her positive attitude that gave us such hope and a belief that all things are possible and that miracles can happen. New Harmony was her greatest achievement, the work of a lifetime, a gift to her friends and family.
Jane Dale Owen
June 29, 2010
We mourn the loss of a vibrant and gracious friend - but know that she has only begun a new part in her journey of life... in the "eternal now." We thank God that our paths crossed for we have been truly blessed by the times that we shared.

From her friends... her "Tillich scholars and admirers" - fond memories will always remain.

Farewell Jane - until we meet again,

Rev. Bill Ressl and Rev. Penny Taylor
Brookfield, Illinois
Bill Ressl
June 29, 2010
Dear Annie and relatives all,
I am so sorry to learn of the loss of you dear mother, a marvelous womam & gentlelady for whom I will always carry fond memories. Her old school charm & grace, her energy and genuine interest in others will be greatly missed by the many lives she gently touched. She, and each of you, are in my thoughts & prayers.
Most sincirely,
Dub Sullivan
June 28, 2010
I was so very sorry to hear of Jane's death. Running in to her in Paris is one of my fondest memories. She was such fun. You all have my deepest sympathy for your loss and you are in my thoughts and prayers.
Jerry Hill Goodpasture
June 28, 2010
Mrs. Owen was so loved and will be missed. It is hard to imagine New Harmony without her. She was very intelligent, sensitive, a mystic, and I treasure the time I spent with her. She was always about what is good in this world. (Barbara Conrey, New Harmony, IN)
June 28, 2010
A most interesting and vibrant lady.
Gervais and Sue Bell
June 28, 2010
Yvi LARSEN
June 28, 2010
monique and Pierre Lainé
June 28, 2010
Mrs. Owen was an Angel on earth and now is an Angel in heaven. Truly an amazing human being, gentle, kind, intelligent and a great sense of humor! She touched and changed my life forever. I shall be eternally grateful for knowing her. Sincere condolences to Annie, Janie, Abigail, Eric and Ingrid.
Barbara Paul
June 27, 2010
Mrs.Owen had a true heart of gold, you would be hard pressed to find a better human being! She was ahead of her time always, she is loved and will truly be missed!
Leigh John
June 27, 2010
Jane embodied the quintessential example of how inheriting gushing oil money was turned into a decades-long mega-synergistic endeavor. She truly lived her passion - eschewing the spotlight and gala social trappings. My life was enriched whenever our paths crossed.
Susan Franzheim
June 27, 2010
I'll miss you Aunt Jane. You were always very gracious and nice to every member of my family both young and old. You carried yourself with a grace & dignity that was unsurpassed in this life. You were in fact, larger than life & you dreamed big. If anyone ever gets to sit on the left side of the father almighty, I know in my heart it will be you. It was a honor and privilege to have known you in this life and I do hope we'll meet again in the "next life".
I also wish to convey my utmost sincerest respects, sympathy's and condolences to her surviving family members. Aunt Jane walked with the giants in this life and she now walks with angles in the after life.

Faithfully Submitted!
Mr & Mrs Asche Ackerman.
June 27, 2010
With our deep sympathy to Annie, Jane and the extended family, we mourn the loss of this extraordinary lady who enriched the lives of countless others by her generosity, courage and foresight. Always gracious and accommodating, we enjoyed reminiscing about her home on Pinewold Drive which my paternal grandparents built in the 1930's and in which the Owen family has lived since 1953. God bless you, Jane Owen, we will miss you.
Raymond Goodrich
June 26, 2010
She was a lovely lady.
Kathy Johnson
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