*****MEMORIAL TO BE POSTPONED UNTIL LATER DATE*****. William Gladstone Owens, Jr. was born on December 14, 1927, in Royston, Georgia. Around 1930, the family moved to Dahlonega, which William cherished and called home for the remainder of his days. One of his many childhood jobs included sweeping the floor, cleaning the butcher’s block, and operating the elevator at Moore’s grocery store on the town square. For high school, William attended the McCallie School in Chattanooga. He then spent a very memorable year as a freshman at North Georgia College, where he was president of Sigma Theta, president of the Sergeants' Club, editor of the yearbook, and business manager of the school paper. He was also a pitcher and catcher on the baseball team. Through a Congressional appointment, William next began his four years as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was on the baseball team, in the color guard, and president of the golf club. A member of the choir, he had the opportunity to sing at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., as well as for President Truman in the White House. William was one of ten cadets who journeyed to Mexico City in September of 1950 to return the flags that were captured in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and had been stored at West Point ever since. There he also met the president of Mexico.
William joined the Army in October 1946, and would ultimately spend three years in Germany, including with the 48th Anti-Aircraft Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division and the 222nd Military Intelligence Platoon. William’s last assignment was to Fort Cronkite in California as part of the Sixth Army Air Defense Command Region.
In 1956, William returned to Dahlonega to join his brother Erwin (later mayor of Dahlonega and a state senator), who had taken over a growing poultry and egg business from their father. In 1957, a typical order was for 100 pullets, but it wasn’t long before the brothers were receiving orders for over 100 thousand pullets. The company office on Highway 60 in Dahlonega was built in 1954 beside the first hatchery. An adjacent truck shop was added in the late fifties. An egg-grading facility (and later hatchery) was designed by William and built on what is now Morrison Moore Parkway in 1958. William got all the producers in the county to join a co-op, the North Georgia Egg Producers, to create a market for eggs. A feedmill was built in Dahlonega in 1960, and later Owens Farms became partners in the Marrell Poultry processing plant in Murrayville, processing around 500,000 broilers per week. The large hatchery still operating off of Morrison Moore Parkway, when built in 1973, had one of the highest outputs in the U.S. Designed by William and visited by industry leaders far and wide, it housed many innovative designs. William showed remarkable initiative in the face of challenges faced by the company. In 1970, to defeat a disease that would kill as many as 20 to 25 percent of a chicken flock, William spent a week at a lab in Seattle learning how to create an effective vaccine, then successfully replicated the process in Georgia. He also programmed one of the earlier, large NCR business computers to predict sales and perform bookkeeping. In 1991, William was a key player in the launch of a new egg breaking plant in Blackshear, Georgia.
Beyond Owens Farms, William was a leader on the state and national level. He was a member of the Georgia Poultry Federation, served on the board of the Georgia Egg Association, and helped establish both the Georgia Egg Commission (serving as its third chairman from 1964 to 1967) and the United Egg Producers (serving as its second president). William also served as a member of the American Egg Board, U.S. Egg Marketers, and the Poultry Leadership Roundtable. In 1990, he was inducted into the Georgia Egg Hall of Fame, where he was cited for continually recognizing “an obligation to his business, and it was his dedication, work and planning that formed the foundation for today’s great industry.” William befriended and gained the respect of virtually every businessman he met. Many of his closest friends in his retirement were former customers and competitors alike.
William made many contributions to the community. He served as chairman of the commission in charge of renovating the Dahlonega town square. He was one of the founders of the Dahlonega Jaycees and president at one time, and also president of the Dahlonega Chamber of Commerce. Owens Farms donated a property to serve as a skating rink. Involved in the planning for the local hospital, William urged the inclusion of a second, unfinished floor, which today is in full use. In 2017, William and his wife Betty were named as King and Queen of Gold Rush Days for their many contributions to the town.
William enjoyed his family, travel, golf, architecture, reading, flying, woodworking, music, gardening, crosswords, bridge, and, above all, good old-fashioned story-telling. We will dearly miss his many stories, his great sense of humor, and his extraordinary passion for life.
William’s survivors include his wife Betty Owens, Dahlonega; son Bill Owens (Judy), McLean, VA; daughters Beth Love, Hayesville, GA and Belinda Worth, Pensacola, FL; step-daughter Tammy Holekamp (James), Kingwood, TX; grandchildren Jennifer Owens, Nicole Owens, Joshua Worth, Rachael Worth, Katie Holekamp and James Holekamp, and four great grandchildren.
Family will receive friends on Sunday March 8th, 2020 from 1pm until 4pm at the funeral home.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 28 at 4 p.m. at the Dahlonega Funeral Home (20 Gibson Road, Dahlonega, GA 30533). More information about the location can be found here: https://www.dahlonegafuneralhome.com/location
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Fisher House Foundation (https://fisherhouse.org/ways-to-give/) or North Georgia Interfaith Ministries (https://lumpkincountyhomeless.org/donate/).
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