Tag Archives: Verna Marie Owen

A fascinating sketch, from what I remember.

On that day, I had been teaching in a room that wasn’t mine. Occasionally, weird schedule things happen at school, like someone having to use my larger room to photograph groups for the yearbook, or sometimes I end up subbing for another teacher on my plan period. As a middle school teacher, you learn to roll with things like this. So for part of that day, the kids and I were in a more traditional classroom that is very different from the two rooms that I call home when I’m at school. 

At the end of the day, a student from one of those earlier classes dropped by to hand me a very nice looking piece of artwork… a beautifully detailed sketch. She was on her way to the bus, so in a rush I thanked her for the gift that was clearly the result of a lot of time and patience… and heart.

For every year, I keep a folder with the title “Treasures” written on the tab, and I knew that this sketch was going in. One of my professors in undergrad suggested I do this, and so right now I have twelve of them, one for every year. Each one is stuffed with various awkwardly shaped items, and so at this point they take up almost an entire drawer of my large file cabinet.  

After the halls cleared and the buses were leaving, I got a better look at the sketch as I was walking back toward my office. There I was. Though it was a cartoony version of myself, it was a perfect likeness. It was from the perspective of this student from earlier in the day in the other teacher’s classroom. I was behind the desk in the front corner of the room. The details were amazing. Everything from that room was in this drawing. What made it really special were the words, similar to those wordle things that are so popular now, that were creatively added around me on the paper. These words represented qualities that this student sees (I’m assuming) in me, such as “kind”, “compassion”, “funny”, “music”, etc. Seeing this made my heart melt in one of those moments that any teacher experiences when they receive a gift like this. But I do remember thinking, it’s too bad the setting of this sketch wasn’t in one of our own music classrooms. Ah well. Good kid. 

I opened the top file cabinet drawer and was just about to file it in “Treasures 13-14”, when something caught my attention. There was a detail from the sketch that I had completely missed. Are you kidding me? In the opposite corner of the front of the room, as if in the shadows, this student had drawn an older woman standing out of the way. She wasn’t a part of any of the activity going on in the room. She was merely present, though she appeared to have watchful eyes. There was NO older woman present with us in that classroom earlier! The hairs immediately stood up on my neck and arms, and a chill went through my entire body. I recognized those eyes. I recognized the hair. No. It couldn’t be! Or could it? The older woman appeared to be the late Verna Marie Owen, better known as Miss Owen, from several of my recent blogs.

Was my mind playing tricks on me? Did I just have a strange, yet creative student? (She certainly wouldn’t be the first!) Or does she simply have an exceptional ability that most do not? Was this her way of letting me know that a certain someone was keeping an eye on our learning activities? Cool! No… creepy. Both!

I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and fumbled for my glasses. It was close to 5am. Though I added a few creative details to keep you reading, most of this dream was typed out in a simple note on my iPhone… from what I remember.  

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You might also like: 

“So, I had this dream…” (The Voices Blog)

Why did the full-blown apparition cross the road? (Big Séance)

The Hand That Rocks Your Dreams (Big Séance)

Being Able To Read In Your Dreams (Big Séance)

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Well I Asked For It: A Special Visitor At School

 

Me at work in the classroom... about a decade ago.

Me at work in the classroom… about a decade ago.

My sixth grade choir students were in their performance spots on the risers. With me on the floor in front of them, they were focused and listening to my instructions. With our concert coming up next week, we’ve recently been doing our best to be in a serious and focused place during rehearsals. In plain English… we’re seriously cramming! 

Now push pause and briefly travel back in time with me. Let’s travel back three blog posts ago, as I shared both my frustration with the lack of paranormal experiences lately, and my thankfulness for the “completely normal” things in my life. I suppose that was a little whiny request thrown out into the ether. Again in plain English… I asked for it. 

Now back to my kiddos on the risers. They really were focused… and so was I. Midway through one of my sentences, I felt someone right behind me waiting to get my attention. I heard something (I don’t remember exactly what it was) very close to my left ear, as if someone was interrupting me (rudely) or needed something. It’s middle school. Rude interruptions and chaos happens all the time. I didn’t think anything of it and turned around, probably a little frustrated, and said “Yes?” I ended up doing a double take and made a complete turn, checking to make sure a choir nerd wasn’t hiding behind me or playing a prank. Absolutely no one was there. I was a bit embarrassed and turned back around to find my choir staring at me in silence. Old Mr. Keller is just losing his mind. I wish I could have captured the looks on their faces for eternity. We all had quite a giggle. I said something like “Well, I guess we have a ghost today.” Many of my students know I’m also a paranormal nerd, and so they giggled and we moved on. 

As soon as that class left and I was eating lunch, it all hit me. The evening before this event was when I blogged about my research on Miss Verna Owen in my previous post. She was a teacher in my hometown who taught for 50 years and died in 1986 at the age of 90. The connection started when I realized I own two of her high school yearbooks from the 1920s. She had been on my mind a lot in the last few days. Just that morning at school, I kept relating all of the days activities to how it would have been for her in the 1920s… or the 30s… or the 40s (and gosh, she taught all the way into the 60s). During my morning drive I thought, Miss Owen would have walked to school in those early days. While helping students with typical middle school “issues”, I thought, I wonder how similar these issues are to those in Miss Owens’ class? And what would she have done? 

So after that goose bumpy moment, and after some thought, I’ve decided that I just may have had a visit from Miss Owen. Who knows? The very next day, I told the story to my kids. They were fascinated, and now, of course, we’ve had several Miss Owen moments. Not really, but it sure lightens the mood when Mr. Keller is more likely to be cranky and stressed before concert time. Thanks, Miss Owen! Stop by any time… 

 

 

 


Verna Marie Owen (1895-1986), a Lexington Missouri Teacher

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.  

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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. 

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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. 

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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)

More from the Old Yearbooks (Big Séance)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

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