Joseph E. Owens, 81, Montgomery Co. delegate Joseph...

May 23, 1999

Joseph E. Owens, 81, Montgomery Co. delegate

Joseph E. Owens, former Montgomery County Delegate who earned a reputation as "Killer Joe" and the "Abominable No Man," because he slew bills left and right as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, died Tuesday of a cerebral hemorrhage at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The Rockville resident was 81.

The conservative lawmaker was first elected in 1970 from Montgomery's District 19 and became Judiciary Committee chairman in 1973. He was defeated in the 1986 Democratic primary.

Then Gov. William Donald Schaefer named Mr. Owens deputy secretary of the Department of Licensing and Regulation in 1987, a position he held until 1995.

With his head of thick white hair combed to one side, bushy eyebrows and horn-rimmed glasses, and displaying to the world what seemed like a perpetual scowl, Mr. Owens could be a formidable opponent when it came time to consider legislation.

As head of the 21-member Judiciary Committee, he killed reform bills on such issues as gun control, drunken driving, highway safety, child support and the rights of crime victims.

During the 1984 legislative session, for instance, the judiciary committee voted down 61 percent of the bills that came before it.

"Let's face it," Mr. Owens told The Evening Sun in a 1985 interview, "the majority of bills we get should not be passed. I think the thing too many people [in the General Assembly] forget is that this is not a little contest, but that when we pass a bill, four million people have to live by it."

It was said that Mr. Owens may have picked up his bill-killing instinct as a young man growing up in Washington observing the city's tendency to fix problems with tailor-made legislation.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Owens, a criminal lawyer and retired career Army officer, became the target of an intense lobbying effort by Mothers Against Drunk Driving who believed that his committee was standing in the way of anti-drunk driving legislation that had already been approved by the Senate.

In the end, Mr. Owens dropped his opposition and his committee voted to raise the drinking age in Maryland from 18 to 21.

He was a graduate of McKinley Technical High School in Washington, and earned his law degree from Columbus University, now a part of Catholic University of Washington.

During World War II, he served with combat engineers and participated in the historic North Africa, Sicily and Omaha Beach landings. He remained in the Army until 1962 and was discharged with the rank of lieutenant colonel. His decorations included the Silver Star, Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Roman Catholic Shrine of St. Jude, 12701 Viers Mill Road, Rockville.

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Trudy Owens; a stepson, Ed Herrmann of Gaithersburg; four brothers, Emmet Owens of Anacortes, Wash., John Owens of Washington, Dermot Owens of College Park and James Owens of Medford, Mass.; and a sister, Eileen Parker of Silver Spring.

Mary Lucile Vanden Brink, 89, nationally known potter

Mary Lucile Vanden Brink, a nationally recognized potter who also taught the craft, died May 16 of heart failure at Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster, where she had resided since 1996. The former longtime Towson resident was 89.

Mrs. Vanden Brink, who moved to Towson from Omaha, Neb., in 1953 with her husband, George Vanden Brink, a graphic artist whom she married in 1931, established Chesapeake Potters, a craft guild, which is now closed.

Mr. Vanden Brink died last year.

In addition to Chesapeake Potters, she maintained a studio at the Towson YMCA, where she taught pottery making for 17 years. Through exhibits and jury shows, Mrs. Vanden Brink gained national recognition for her work.

Born Lucile Nickle in Sioux City, Iowa, she graduated from high school there and attended Wayne State Teachers College. She also attended Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y., where she studied with Val Cushing, a renowned artisan in the field.

She was a member of the Carroll branch of the National League of American Pen Women, a professional group for women in the creative arts. She held several offices, including president from 1990 to 1992.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. June 5 in the chapel at Carroll Lutheran Village, 300 St. Lukes Circle, Westminster.

Mrs. Vanden Brink is survived by a son, John A. Vanden Brink of Park Ridge, Ill.; a daughter, Sue Loweree of Easton; a sister, Virginia Perley of Hot Springs Village, Ark.; five grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

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