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.
Published in New York Times on Jul. 4, 2010.