Henry Robert Owen, IV

Born in Freeport, New York on September 29, 1958

Departed on July 24, 2016 and resided in Gallatin, Tennessee

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Henry Robert Owen, IV – Age 57, of Gallatin, passed away July 24, 2016.

Henry Robert Owen, IV was born on September 29, 1958 in Freeport, NY the third child of Henry Robert Owen, III of New York, NY, and Muriel Jean Armstrong of Arnprior, Ontario Canada. He was a devoted brother to Barbara Lynn and Elisabeth Jane.

He spent most of his childhood years growing up in Hingham, MA and then Plymouth, MI. Downhill skiing was his favorite outdoor sport. He earned his B.Sc. degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary in 1982, and both his M.Sc. in Horticulture in 1984, and his Ph.D. in Genetics in 1987 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Throughout his professional life, Henry’s teaching and research interests focused on cell and tissue culture techniques for plant propagation, regeneration and genetic improvement. Later in his career, his interests and expertise also included the study of endangered and exotic plant species. After earning his doctoral degree, Henry spent a year as a visiting scientist for Agriculture Canada in Fredericton, New Brunswick investigating factors that somatic embryogenesis in potato cultivars for use in synthetic seed technologies. Then from 1988-1990, he managed the tissue culture collection and research program on preservation of plant materials of the American Type-Culture Collection in Maryland. Funded in part by Ohio State University and the Smuckers Company, Henry then researched how to genetically improve strawberry plants using tissue culture techniques from 1990-1994.

Henry joined the faculty of Eastern Illinois University as an Assistant
Professor of Botany in 1994. He retired from EIU as Professor Emeritus of Botany in 2014. During his tenure at EIU, Henry taught 15 different courses ranging from general biology, botany, plants and civilization, plant physiology for natural science teachers, plant cell and tissue culture, plant genetics and an honors course on the world of plants.

In addition, while at Eastern Illinois University, Henry co-established the university’s Threatened and Endangered Plant Species Research Program. As part of this program, Henry and several students worked on cloning the dying 300 year-old bur oak tree on campus. He served as national president of the Phi Sigma Biological Sciences Honor Society. His achievements here included developing a national website, and creating a Student Travel Grant program enabling students to present their research at professional meetings.
Henry earned the EIU Faculty Achievement and Contribution Award covering teaching, research, and service. His achievements included a long list of articles, textbook chapters, and conference papers published, and awards and grants earned. However, Henry was most motivated by and proud of his role as a teacher and mentor. His classes were often characterized as tough, but as one student put it, “If you want to learn, he is the perfect guy.”
Aside from his more obvious hobby of vegetable gardening, Henry enjoyed reading true crime novels, collecting boxes of all shapes and styles, refinishing furniture and collecting coins.

You did not have to know Henry long to know he had a life-long passion for rescuing and surrounding himself with dogs, especially the smaller breeds. He may have been tough in the classroom, but that was certainly not his approach when it came to interacting with the four-legged members of the family. When he volunteered at an animal shelter, we knew his family would increase in size.

He was often soft-spoken, but he did not hesitate to stand his ground for his often-liberal views or in support of a range of causes. You could always count on Henry to come up with the most unique and well thought out gift for someone’s birthday. He did not smile often enough, but when he did, you were so glad you had seen it.
He made the decision to retire early to move to TN to be close to his family, to which he was devoted, often leaving everyone laughing at his enviable quick wit. He enjoyed his new freedom, setting up his newly built home, planting his gardens, relaxing on his porch with his dogs and exploring Gallatin, TN.

Preceded in death by his parents, Muriel Jean Armstrong Owen & Henry Robert Owen, III. Survived by his beloved pets, Audeo, Flora, Heather, Hazel & Phyto; siblings, Barbara Perkins (Craig), Elisabeth DeWitt (Scott); niece, Jane Normansell (David); nephew, Ben DeWitt.

In Lieu of flowers donations may be made to Humane Society of Sumner County, 16 Volunteer Dr., Hendersonville, TN, 37075 or www.sumnerhumane.org/

A Life Celebration will be held 10:00am – 11:00am, Tuesday, August 2, at Crestview Funeral Home with burial to follow at Crestview Memory Gardens.

17 Comments to Henry Robert Owen, IV

  1. William Kevin Alley
    July 27, 2016 9:11 am

    Love always my best friend. I will cherish 31 years of close friendship.

  2. Bart Rettberg
    July 27, 2016 9:50 am

    Hugs & woofs to you, buddy… missed you when you left Charleston for Tennessee and will now continue to do so… hope you are enjoying your reunion with all your past pups and family…

  3. Eric Bollinger
    July 27, 2016 12:50 pm

    Henry was a great guy and I am so sorry to hear of his passing, especially so young. We were faculty colleagues for 20 years and Henry always stood up for what he believed in. I admired him and will miss him.

  4. April McDonnell
    July 27, 2016 6:02 pm

    Amazing teacher and mentor. Outstanding friend and confidant. Will miss you much Henry!!

  5. Edward Stephon
    July 27, 2016 7:49 pm

    What a blessing your friendship was. So many wonderful memories.

  6. Elisabeth (Owen) DeWitt
    July 28, 2016 9:02 am

    Thank-you for your kind words. We will be posting a picture video and a more descriptive biography on Saturday. Henry is my brother and we’ve been close our entire life. His dry sense of humor had me constantly chuckling. I enjoyed having him nearby for these last 2 years to explore Tennessee and spend hours on our screened in porches discussing everything. I have a hole in my heart now. I miss him terribly already.

    • Bob and Colleen Moreau
      July 30, 2016 12:45 pm

      We are deeply sadden for your loss. Sharing memories is the beast way to keep him in your hearts.
      Sending our thoughts and prayers

      • Andrea McWhirter
        July 31, 2016 1:38 pm

        I recall good memories from our reunions and most recently some of his last FB posts with you and Scott. They captured you 3 beautifully and, at the time, made me smile. Now they are a great memory. Sincere condolences to all of you, incl Scott, Bobbie, Craig, Jane, Dave and Ben. This is a tragic loss. Henry was a very good man. Hugs from Canada ??

  7. Robert Colombo
    July 29, 2016 3:56 pm

    I am absolutely floored. I really enjoyed having an office next to Henry for five years, he became a good friend I will miss him!

  8. William Addison
    July 29, 2016 4:54 pm

    I got to know Henry during our shared committee work at Eastern Illinois University. I was always impressed with his professionalism and geniality; his contributions made our meetings not only more productive, but more enjoyable as well. I was saddened to learn of his untimely passing. Rest in peace, Henry.

  9. Brenda Rezk
    July 30, 2016 6:14 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear of Henry’s passing. We were colleagues during the 15 years that I worked at EIU. I shall remember his chuckling sort of laugh and pictures of one of his dogs in a teacup.

  10. Ginger Philbrick
    July 31, 2016 1:35 pm

    What an important man Henry was…to friends, family, students, science, and his four footed pals! He certainly made this world a better place.

    Keeping him, and all of you in our hearts,
    Jim and Ginger

  11. Barbara Owen Perkins
    August 11, 2016 6:23 pm

    A special thank you to all of Henry’s family, friends and colleagues who have shared their memories of our dear brother. Many of you have given my sister Elisabeth and I a glimpse into his professional career as a teacher or shared your often funny stories. It means so much to know that despite his short life, Henry did influence so many people. And of course he provided a wonderful life for so many dogs and other pets.

    Like many of you, Elisabeth and I have lots of fond and funny memories and photographs to remind us of how blessed we were to call Henry our brother. He will always be part of who we are and we are glad that’s the case.

  12. Rob Logan
    August 12, 2016 4:38 pm

    A friend for many years… What a sad and unnecessary loss. Henry was a kind and caring man.

  13. Brian Correll
    August 18, 2016 6:32 pm

    I remember Dr. Owens from my time at EIU through his friend Kevin Alley. Much respect to the family.

  14. Marilyn Hopkinson
    August 23, 2016 9:40 pm

    I am so sorry for your sudden loss. The video is beautiful….memories captured in time.

    • Elisabeth
      January 7, 2017 4:21 pm

      Thank-you for your kind words. Were you a colleague of Henry’s?…. Coincidently, my grandmothers maiden name was Hopkinson. She was born in England.
      -Elisabeth DeWitt

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