Jerry Thomas Owens, 50, Cockeysville business owner

July 20, 2002|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Jerry Thomas Owens, owner of a Cockeysville instrumentation business, died Tuesday of complications from lung cancer at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 50.

Advanced lung cancer was diagnosed in 1999, and Mr. Owens, a 10-year resident of Monkton, was not expected to live more than six months. He followed an aggressive treatment program at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

"He lived longer than anybody expected," said Dr. Caroline Foster Owens, his wife of 11 years. "As he was dying, [Mr. Owens' doctors] all agreed that Jerry's spirit was just an inspiration for all of them."

Born in Richmond, Va., Mr. Owens graduated from Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland, Ky., in 1969, and was named to the all-state basketball team by the Louisville Courier Journal.

He attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., on a basketball scholarship, and graduated from the University of Richmond in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in English and psychology.

For two years, he worked for Dart Container Corp. as the sales representative for Virginia and parts of Maryland and Tennessee. While at Dart, a maker of disposable plastic food-service items, Mr. Owens sold the company's largest order up to that time to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va.

"I think he could have sold anything," his wife said. "He had a fantastic voice and a fabulous smile, and at the end that was his only way of expression."

After leaving Dart, Mr. Owens traveled the country and lived for periods in Hawaii and Seattle, Wash. -- selling boat furniture -- before moving to the Baltimore area in 1979.

At that time, he went to work for Koch Associates in Cockeysville, which sells industrial instrumentation products to the government, as well as to the power and health care industries. He was named Koch's general manager in 1985, became president in 1988 and bought the business in 1991. That same year he married Dr. Caroline Foster, a Towson dentist.

Mr. Owens expanded Koch's business and won numerous sales awards. He belonged to the Instrument Society of America and the Mechanical Equipment Manufacturers Representatives Association. He stopped working last year when he lost most of his vision.

Mr. Owens enjoyed woodworking, gardening, and small construction and renovation projects. He often ran on the Northern Central Railroad trail, and spent time there during his illness. His family plans to place a bench on the trail with Mr. Owens' name on it as a memorial, Dr. Owens said. "After the cancer was diagnosed, he went there every day; that was his church," she said.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. today at Bethel Presbyterian Church, 4135 Norrisville Road in White Hall.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Owens is survived by two sons, John Foster Owens and Joseph Thomas Owens of Monkton; his mother, Mildred Owens of Richmond; a brother, Danny Owens of Louisville, Ky.; and a sister, Linda Smith of Richmond.

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