Posted: Tuesday, October 30th 2012 at 12:15pm
Agriculture pioneer Robert Owen's contributions remembered
By Rob Moore Editor
Robert Owen, a Georgia agriculture pioneer, died in September -- just a month before his 100th birthday.
CLARKESVILLE – A Georgia agriculture pioneer from Habersham County would have turned 100 earlier this month.
Robert Alvin Owen died Sept. 16, at his residence in Mt. Airy.
Owen was to be honored with a proclamation on Sept. 17 at the Habersham County Commission meeting. Instead, the proclamation was presented to Owen’s pastor, the Rev. Brian Butler.
That proclamation was for Owen’s “dedicated service to the farm community throughout Habersham County.”
As noted in the proclamation, Owen was employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service for 37 years and was responsible for bringing Kentucky 31 Fescue to the state of Georgia. He was also a cattle farmer.
In addition, Owen was instrumental in the construction of many farm ponds in Habersham County, as well as many other conservation measures.
The son of the late James M. and Lillian Lancaster Owen, he was married to Lily Norris Owen, who preceded him in death, for 68 years.
“Mr. Robert and Mrs. Lily were members of the Clarkesville United Methodist Church since they located in Clarkesville,” said friend and fellow church member Judy Forbes, retired superintendent of the Habersham County School System.
“This summer Dr. Tom Hodges and I went to his home to interview him about the history of our church,” Forbes said. “He told us many things, but we were pleased to learn about his work in our agriculture community, his work with local plants and greenery, his gardening experiences, and his love for the Boy Scouts.”
But Owen’s contributions to Habersham County were not strictly on the professional level. He took an interest in the people around him.
He served as a local troop leader for Boy Scouts of America from the 1940s until the 1960s.
“My favorite memory of Mr. Robert was from one of the first summers when Bruce and I both taught school,” Forbes said. “We were both trying to go to school and raise a small daughter, and we truly had a hand-to-mouth existence. Mr. Robert stopped us after church one Sunday and said that he and Mrs. Lily had so much coming in from their garden that they could not stay ahead of it. He asked us to please come out and ‘take some of it off his hands.’ Bruce and I went out and he gave us a bushel of beans and at least that much corn. I froze all that food, and we ate well all winter. He wanted us to believe that we were helping him – not the other way around. That's the kind of person he was, and I will always remember this kind man.”
“Still sharp as a tack in the weeks before he died, Mr. Robert proudly told us on the day of the interview that he would be 100 years old on Oct. 11, 2012 – he said, ‘that's 10-11-12, and you can remember that!’” Forbes said.
Gilbert Barrett, president of Habersham County Farm Bureau and a member of the Habersham County Board of Education, also praised Owen’s contributions to the community, both through agriculture and his interest in people.
Owen’s contributions are recorded through the proclamation included in the official minutes of the Habersham County Commission.
“The Habersham County Board of Commission is honored to have had an upstanding, respected citizen who contributed many of his years striving to better the farm communities in Habersham County,” the proclamation states. “… the Habersham County Board of Commission regrets the passing of Mr. Owen in his 100th year, but wishes to celebrate his life and accomplishments.”
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