This post includes **Updated Information** below.
Over my Thanksgiving break, I visited my Grandmother at her home for a while. Very often I get sucked into her many books on the history of Lexington, Missouri (my hometown), or even just the high school yearbooks of both her and my late Grandfather. Naturally, that is precisely what happened during this visit.
I was super excited to find a photo of Ms. Verna Marie Owen in both the 1954 and 1956 Lexington High School yearbooks (the same photo in both, and included below on the right.) You may remember me mentioning and including a photo of her several months back, in a post titled “Collecting Someone Else’s Memories”, where I shared many of the photos and pages from the five 1920s era Lexington High School yearbooks that I have collected. It is just one of my nerdy hobbies, even though I can’t seem to find any other yearbooks from that era. I believe that Verna Owen began teaching in Lexington for the 1927-1928 school year (see updated information below) (see the below left photo). I have the yearbook from that year as well as for the 1928-1929 school year. Both of these yearbooks were originally owned by Verna herself. Obviously, me now owning two of her yearbooks, along with my Lexington roots, and the fact that I am a teacher, has made me feel connected to her in some way.
Verna Marie Owen
(1895 – 1986)
**Updated Information as of 12/2/13**
To prepare for this post, I did some genealogy research using FindAGrave and Ancestry. It made me a little sad to find very little information on this woman. Fortunately, Cathy Wallace, who is a great friend and Lexington resident who shares many of the same nerdy interests, went out of her way to fill in several blanks for us, including finding the obituary below. I told her I was going to have to give her the title of “senior reporter for BigSéance.com”. Thank you for the time and effort you put into helping us learn about and remember Miss Owen. Even though we’re unable to find an exact year of when she retired, she clearly had a long career in Lexington and touched many lives. I now have evidence of this, as people have left comments here and on the two Lexington community Facebook pages.
Her obituary from the July 30, 1986 issue of The Lexington News:
Verna Marie Owen, 90, of Lexington, died Friday, July 25 in the Urbana, MO Nursing Home.
She was born September 18, 1895 in Lexington to John Martin Owen and Carolyn Sellman Owen.
She was a member of the United Methodist Church, the Lafayette-Lexington DAR and past matron of the Eastern Star. She attended school at Missouri University, Central Missouri State College and the University of Boldar [sic], CO. She taught school in Lexington for 47 years. She was a member of the Missouri State Teachers Association and the National Retired Teachers Association. She was a lifelong resident of Lexington.
Survivors include four nieces and eight nephews.
Services were held Tuesday, July 29 at the Walker-Nadler-Graff Chapel with Rev. Dan Sullivan officiating; burial was in Machpelah Cemetery.
Some other information we’ve been able to gather:
Both her and her parents (John Martin Owen and Caroline “Carrie” Whelan Owen) were born and raised in Lexington, and are all buried in Machpela cemetery, a Lexington cemetery that I’ve blogged about.
It blows my mind to learn that as early as the fall of 1915, at the age of 19 or 20, Miss Owen was teaching 34 pupils at the Elm Park country school outside of Lexington. Again, it’s unclear when exactly she retired from the Lexington School District, but in recent days, former students have recalled having her as a teacher as late as 1965. That is simply amazing. I can’t imagine being there to witness all of the growth and change that public education went through during those five decades!
During her long career in Lexington, she taught at least English and Social Studies to probably several junior/senior high grade levels, and for many years sponsored a “pen pals” program. According to the 1940 US census, at age 44 she was making a yearly teacher salary of $855.
In recent days, former students have described her as being quiet, gentle, soft-spoken, sweet, and “one of my favorite teachers”. Alan talked of being paid to “porch” her newspaper for a few years in the 1970s each time it was delivered. Lucia sent me the cutest story (I’m adding it to the comments below) of how she would leave Miss Owen flowers on her doorstep on May Day.
At the time of her death I was eight years old. I wonder if I ever knew her or if our paths ever crossed. Looking into her eyes, I just know she made a huge difference and was loved and respected by many. If anyone has more information, or if you’d like to add your memories of Miss Owen, or if you’re a family member, I’d love for you to contact me, or simply leave a comment.
You might also like:
More from the Old Yearbooks (Big Séance)
Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)
Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)
Skin and Bones (Big Séance)