It was a simple and touching send-off for Olga von Hartz...


March 11, 1993

It was a simple and touching send-off for Olga von Hartz Owens at the Jenkins funeral home Tuesday morning. At the request of Mrs. Owens before she died at 101, the family played a recording of Beethoven's Archduke Trio before and after the service, which consisted entirely of talks about their mother by four of the five Owens children.

The four, James, Olga, Gwinn and Lloyd, did not compare notes before their talks, but one theme was common: Mrs. Owens was an independent woman who considered herself a musician first -- she was a Peabody-trained violinist -- not a "housewife" and certainly not the little woman of Hamilton Owens, the late editor-in-chief of The Sun and Evening Sun.

In 1938, she helped found the Women's String Symphony of Baltimore, partly to protest the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's banning of women musicians. When the orchestra finally did allow women to play, said son Gwinn Owens (retired editor of the Other Voices page), several members of the Women's String Symphony were the first to integrate the BSO.

Mrs. Owens' longevity is hard to imagine. Her children reminded that she was born before radio, television, automobiles and airplanes. Son James, pushing 80 himself, said one of his mother's first memories was of watching the American fleet, commanded by Adm. George Dewey, sail up the Hudson River after the triumph of the Spanish-American War.

While the assassination of John F. Kennedy lives in agonizing detail in millions of memories, Mrs. Owens recalled just as clearly the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. And she was 29 years old with three children when the 19th Amendment gave her the right to vote.

Daughter Olga Owens said her mother's eyesight failed in her last years, but she continued an avid "reader" of books on tape, and she continued to discuss her reading with the family until her heart failed last Friday at Roland Park Place.

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