Over his seven decades as a funeral director, Bobby Owens, the owner of R.W. Owens & Son Funeral Home in Wolfe City, has been a driving force in his community.
Through his years of service, not only has Bobby helped countless families through times of grief, but he has also worked tirelessly to improve the quality of peoples’ everyday lives through his involvement in the Wolfe City School Board, Chamber of Commerce and Homecoming Committee, as well as the Webb Hill Country Club and many more organizations.
“He’s just always treated people with a lot of compassion, he’s got a servant’s heart and he loves his town,” Bobby’s wife, Millo, said.
At 92 years old, and less than a week away from being recognized for his 70 years as a licensed funeral director by the Texas Funeral Director’s Association, Bobby is the “son” in R.W. Owens & Son. The funeral home was, in fact, founded by his father, Richard W. Owens, in 1945. However, before that, soon after Richard moved his family to Wolfe City in 1926, he worked at the J.R. Wilson & Co. furniture and hardware store, as well as J.R. Wilson Funeral Home – which was on the second floor of the same building.
“Back then, a lot of businesses were combined, so it wasn’t uncommon for the funeral home to be with the furniture store, since they made the caskets,” Dick Owens, Bobby’s son, said with a chuckle.
Throughout those early years, Bobby helped his father with several routine tasks in a funeral home.
“Oh, I started working around here when I was about yea high,” Bobby said as he put his hand below the desk. “A lot of times, at the services, I’d pass out cards so that people could sign them and they could be given to the families.”
After growing up, Bobby took a hiatus from the family business to fight for his country as a member of the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he served as a U.S. Merchant Marine. Not long after returning from military and national service, Bobby received his embalmers license in 1949.
As Bobby dived back into the family business, he quickly gained a reputation as a very hands on funeral director. One of the duties he took most seriously was driving the hearse – which doubled for many years as an ambulance for residents of Wolfe City.
“Yes, in those days, we had to make sure we had someone directing the funeral so that another one of us could take the ambulance call,” Dick explained. “Usually, we’d work funerals all day and drive the ambulance all night – we didn’t know when we’d get to sleep.”
“At the time, we had another funeral director, named Bill Posely, who also drove,” Dick added. “He worked for this funeral home for 65 years, so we could always rely on him.”
In addition to driving a hearse/ambulance, Bobby went the extra mile for those grieving lost loved ones in a variety of other ways.
“About two years ago, a lady knocked on the door after we closed,” Millo recollected. “She had lost her baby and didn’t have enough money to pay. Bobby told her not to worry about it and he did the work for $25. He did wonderful things for people all the time.”
Outside of the funeral home, Bobby has been highly active in his community, with organizations and projects that promote community spirit being especially close to his heart.
“He was on the Wolfe City Homecoming Committee for 30 years, and it’s always been like a big reunion for people from the community,” Dick said. “Homecoming is a long tradition in this town, and it goes back to the ‘50s, but dad would reach out and get 2,000 people here. It just always meant a lot to him.”
In addition to the already mentioned organizations, Bobby has been an active member of the First Baptist Church in Wolfe City, Webb Hill Country Club, the Wolfe City Housing Authority, Mt. Carmel Cemetery Association, Wolfe City Historical Foundation, Salvation Army board of directors, Kiwanis Club, and the Wolfe City Athletic Association and Riding Club. He is also a 32 degree Mason.
Throughout the interview for this story, Bobby was humble, preferring to let his son and wife tell his story. He also repeatedly mentioned his grandson, Richard Colin Owens, and Richard Colin’s tragic death in an auto crash in 2009.
On Tuesday at 1 p.m., Bobby will receive an award recognizing his 70 years as a licensed funeral director at the Texas Funeral Director’s Association Convention at the Fort Worth Convention Center. The award will be his second in recent weeks, as he also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Texas Funeral Director’s Association in May.