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LeRoy D. Owens

LeRoy D. Owens

LeRoy D. Owens, of Ashland, Ore., died unexpectedly on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. He was born in Harrison, Neb. Mar. 7, 1934, to Paul L. Owens and Grace E. Wesely. The family moved to Boise, Idaho during the dust-bowl years of the great depression.

LeRoy graduated from Boise High School and went on to the University of Idaho and married Mary Jo Roberts in 1953. LeRoy worked as a railroad gandy dancer, tail sawyer, milk delivery and warehouseman, while getting his education. After graduation he spent two years on active duty as an army officer and another 10 years in the active reserves. He served as teacher, coach and vice principal at South Junior High School in Boise. During this time he completed his masters degree in education from the University of Idaho.

In 1963, LeRoy, Mary Jo and their four children moved to Eugene, Ore., where LeRoy was vice-principal at Wilson Junior High. He was involved in innovative programs for troubled youth and founded Mobilab, the first video inservice training project for teachers using video technology.

In 1970 he was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives from Lane County in a hotly contested contest with well-known track coach, Bill Bowerman. His bright Euclid green voter information campaign bus was a well-known sight in the county. He served in the 1971-73 legislative session and was co-sponsor of landmark bills such as the Bottle Bill and the Bicycle Bill. He earned his Doctorate of Education from the University of Oregon in 1973 while teaching practical politics and future studies and later served as assistant to the Dean of the School of Education.

His family joined him in American Samoa in where he was a technical advisor to the Community College of Am. Samoa and the Department of Education. They moved from the South Pacific to the Arctic in 1976, where LeRoy worked in education administration, serving as superintendent of the Aleutian Region and consulting to districts from Bethel to Barrow. After retiring from the public school system he taught education and future studies at the University of Alaska.

In 1992, LeRoy and Mary Jo moved to Ashland, Ore. Although he had not been in a singing group since college LeRoy joined the Siskiyou Singers, Peace Choir, and became well-known for his Paul Robeson memorial programs he performed as far away as Chicago and Ottawa, Canada.

He was active in Lithia Springs Rotary Club, United Nations Association, Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and National Alliance on Mental Illness, among many others. He was a member of the Jackson County Mental Health advisory board.

He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and community for his generosity and compassionate spirit.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Jo; children, David, Diane, Doug and Daniel; brother, Kaye Don; sister, Carol; and granddaughters, Jessica, Alyssa and Lauren. He was preceded in death by his parents; twin brother, Raymond; and sister, Mary Moorhead.

A celebration of his life will be held at the Unitarian Center at 4th and C Streets in Ashland at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 7.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 87 Fourth St, Ashland, OR 97520 or Rotary Club of Ashland, Lithia Springs Foundation, 399 Guthrie St, Ashland OR 97520.

LeRoy D. Owens