Boaz resident Marion Owen is loving life at 100.
The former teacher at Albertville, Boaz and Sardis high schools celebrated a century of birthdays on Oct. 27. Daughter-in-law Lynn sums up Owen’s life in one word — love.
“She loves people and loves life,” Lynn said.
Born in 1914, Owen spent much of her early life in Chilo, Ohio, although she lived in several areas, including Arkansas, Illinois and Florida, mostly following her father, who traveled the country as an engineer.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” Owen said.
The only dark spot in her history is the memory of her mother’s and sisters’ tragic deaths when Owen was just 5 years old. Her mother and two sisters were traveling on a steamboat when the boat crashed and sank. Owen’s family members did not survive. The event was “the beginning of a sad time in my life,” she said.
“My father was so devastated,” she said. “When my father lost his family, he lost everything.”
Even at such a young age, the event planted a seed in her heart to share her story with the world.
“When my mother died, I thought, I’m going to tell somebody about that,” Owen said.
That lifelong dream came true in 2007 when, with the help of friend Patty Spiewak and Patty’s daughter, Karen, Owen published a memoir called “The Road from Chilo,” which can be found at the libraries in Boaz and Albertville.
Shortly after, Owen’s father sent her to a Catholic academy in Springfield, Illinois. Owen attributes much of her attitude, habits and outlook on life to the teachings she learned from the nuns.
“They were very strict at the academy,” she said. “I think it was that strict environment. I didn’t know anything but to do what they said.
“When I was in the convent, we thought we were being persecuted because they were so strict.
“We were all very respectful to the nuns.”
After leaving the academy, she attended Brenau College, now Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia, and finished her teaching degree at the University of Alabama. Today, she still proudly dons crimson and white regularly.
Owen started her career as a physical education teacher at Albertville. However, she moved to Boaz after she married Boaz native Martin Lafayette “Jake” Owen a few years later. The couple had three sons, Martin, Craig and Jeff.
Owen taught P.E. classes at Boaz High School until she retired in 1976 at the age of 62. During her BHS career, Owen helped start the band program and was the first cheerleading sponsor to take the squad to cheer competitions.
“They meant a lot to me,” Owen said of her former cheerleaders. “I used to tell those girls how to eat, sleep and exercise. They were great. It looked like they listened.”
Owen’s former cheerleaders and other students remember her just as fondly. In fact, she is still often invited to class reunions as an honored guest.
“Through her actions, she taught them to be respectful and kind because that’s the way she was,” daughter-in-law Lynn Owen said. “Mrs. Owen was accepting of everyone and taught her students to be kind to everyone.”
Not inclined to slow down after retirement, Owen continued teaching healthy habits to others, as she taught aerobics and yoga classes in her 70s. For Owen, physical fitness is not a chore. It’s a hobby. She spent much of her life on the back of a horse practicing her English, horseback riding skills or on the tennis and basketball courts.
Owen was also very familiar with the dance floor. She and Jake used to go dancing in Mentone on Friday nights when they were dating, she said. They loved to do the Charleston and the Waltz to the sounds of big band music, like “Three O’clock in the Morning” by the Andrew Sisters, Owen and Jake’s favorite song.
Owen carried that love through her life, even after Jake’s death. She even taught private dancing lessons for a while and says she still enjoys a waltz every now and then.
“I love dancing,” she said. “My dad and my mother danced.
“I really enjoy music. My father played violin.”
Today, Owen keeps busy with her church and family, including grandchildren Corey, Wiley, Cassidy and Grace.
Religion has always been a strong force in Owen’s life. She admits she was a little nervous about practicing her catholic faith on Sand Mountain, an area known more for its evangelical Christian roots, but she soon learned people would love her no matter what denomination she associated with.
“I heard the South didn’t think Catholics were it,” she said. “I was fooled. Everyone of the churches have treated me wonderfully.”
Owen attended Saint James Catholic Church in Gadsden for several years until Saint William Catholic Church in Guntersville was built. She was a member of the first congregation at St. William.
Although Owen has lived in several places during her lifetime, she says she is “definitely an Alabamian.”
“I have always loved to live where I live,” she said. “I love life. I was always excited about where I lived, and when I got there, I was even more excited.
“I’ve enjoyed my life, especially in Albertville and Boaz.”