John Owens, 70, Rosemont fixture who was cook, cabbie, singer

September 06, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

James S. Bierer: An obituary published yesterday incorrectly reported that James Shadel Bierer was survived by his wife, the former Cornelia Warner Rutledge, who died in 1993. The Sun regrets the error.

John Owens sang as he flipped burgers as a short-order cook, sang while he chauffeured passengers in his cab and sang while he swept alleys and cleaned vacant lots as a sanitation worker.

And he didn't just sing or hum to himself -- he sang loud and strong so all could hear.

"Not a day went by when Mo wasn't singing," said Rodney McNeil, a longtime friend and former neighbor of Mr. Owens' in the Rosemont community of West Baltimore. "He was always a happy person."


Mr. Owens, a Baltimore native, died Tuesday of heart failure in Rocky Mount, N.C., where he had lived for the past three years. He was 70.

Known as Joe or Mo (for Motown, because he loved soul music), Mr. Owens was popular throughout Rosemont and along nearby North Avenue. Neighbors knew him as someone who regularly cleaned the area and checked on older residents.

Younger residents remember him as the ever-joking man who invited young people to his house for cookouts, dancing and card parties.

"He could dance better than most of them kids, although he was about 50 years older than them," said Sherrie Logan, who lived near Mr. Owens for more than 20 years. "He was lively and fun."

Friends said he invited the youngsters to his house to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. Many confided in Mr. Owens and did small chores around his house to earn money.

"He's the kind of person who would give up his last money if someone said they needed it," Ms. Logan said. "He could do any of what he paid the kids to do, but he wanted to instill some sort of values in them."

Raised in South Baltimore and a graduate of Frederick Douglass High School, Mr. Owens served in the Army from 1943 to 1945 during World War II.

His fancy for singing began while in the military, and he sang in several small local rhythm-and-blues and gospel groups to earn extra money after his discharge.

From about 1950 to the early 1960s, Mr. Owens was a short-order cook at a diner on Pennsylvania Avenue. The clientele ranged from men who hung out on corners to downtown businessmen to entertainers such as Redd Foxx, when he was in town to perform at nearby clubs.

"They'd hear him in the back and sing along with him or laugh," said Sidney Coleman, Mr. Owens' grandson. "He knew how to keep the business coming back."

Mr. Owens worked for the city sanitation department until about 1980, and in recent years drove a taxi for Diamond Cab Co. He also was a hack when not working for Diamond.

"He's the only person I know who could be happy while sweeping an alley," Mr. McNeil said. "I guess he felt that he was just happy to see another day."

A memorial service is planned for this month.

He is survived by his wife, the former Virginia Newsome, whom he married in 1955; two sons, Jarrett Owens of Miami and Michael Owens of Baltimore; a daughter, Tammy Shields of New York City; a brother, Quincy Owens of Rocky Mount; and five grandchildren.

Roger L. Poling, 64, computer systems analyst

Roger Lowell Poling, a retired computer systems analyst, died of heart disease Tuesday at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Baltimore resident was 64.

Mr. Poling worked for the Social Security Administration from 1961 until his retirement in 1990.

A native of Van Wert, Ohio, he graduated from Purdue University in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in science. He also served in the Army.

Mr. Poling was an avid Orioles, Colts and Ravens fan who enjoyed sailing, woodworking, golfing and sunsets. He was also an active member of Zion United Methodist Church in Cecilton, and attended the West Baltimore and Mount Vernon Place United Methodist churches.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. today at the Mount Vernon Place church, at Mount Vernon Place and Charles Street.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, the former Joan Tustison; a son, Andrew S. Poling, and a daughter, Diane M. Poling, both of Baltimore; and two sisters, June Poling Taylor and Marilyn Poling Bair, and a brother, Larry L. Poling, all of Van Wert.

Stanley John Lowney, 82, retired systems analyst

Stanley John Lowney, a retired systems analyst and World War II veteran, died Thursday of heart failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Baltimore resident was 82.

Mr. Lowney had been employed for about a decade as a systems analyst for the state government before retiring in the early 1980s. Previously, he worked in the business and engineering departments of General Electric in Boston and Westinghouse in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Boston native attained the rank of sergeant in the Army's postal division during World War II before obtaining his bachelor's degree in business and engineering from City College in New York.

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