Mrs. Betty Owen, 77, of Fearrington Village in Pittsboro and formerly of Cary, died unexpectedly on Friday, August 17, 2012 while on vacation at the coast of North Carolina with her family.
Born January 26, 1935 in Hazard, KY, Mrs. Owen was the daughter of David Yancey Combs and Ollie Mosley Combs.
Mrs. Owen was Salutatorian of Hazard Kentucky High School in 1953. She attended Centre College, Danville, KY 1953-54 and the University of Kentucky 1954-57, earning a BA in English and Education and graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She received her Masters in Public Health Education from the University of North Carolina At Chapel Hill in 1962. She was a member of both the UK and UNC alumni associations.
Early in her career, she taught English in the public schools of California, Kentucky and North Carolina. She moved to North Carolina in 1966, with her husband Larry, to whom she was married for 50 years. They resided in both Charlotte and Cary before moving to Fearrington Village near Pittsboro in 2004.
From 1977 – 85, she served as Senior Policy Advisor to Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. She was directly responsible for policy matters involving education and human resources. She often represented the Governor at the General Assembly and provided outreach to local, state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations. In this position, Mrs. Owen played a key role in planning and securing legislative approval for the NC School of Science and Math and the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching. In 1987, she was appointed as Executive Director of the Emerging Issues Forum at North Carolina State University. Working with Governor Hunt and university leaders, she planned and produced events which joined North Carolina citizens with local, state and national government and business leaders to debate policies on jobs, trade, the economy, education and many other topics. Mrs. Owen held this position until 2001.
Other career highlights included serving as Chief of Staff for the National Task Force on Education and consulting to the Carnegie Forum on Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She served on the boards of directors for the NC Foundation for Advanced Health Programs, the NC Progress Board and The Methodist Home for Children. She had been a District Director of the NC Retired Government Employees Association and volunteered with Friends of the Pittsboro Library and Habitat for Humanity.
On January 23, 1994, she was selected as “Tar Heel of the Week” by the News and Observer.
Mrs. Owen was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Cary, NC, the Daughters of the American Revolution and a lifelong Democrat.
Mrs. Owen is survived by her husband, Larry G. Owen, of Pittsboro; sons, Geoffrey Lawrence Owen and Robert David Owen; daughters-in-law, Lauren Owen and Allison Owen; and grandchildren, Olivia Owen, Matthew Owen, Elijah Owen and Wyatt Owen, all residing in Cary.
Friends are invited to visit with the Owen family on Saturday afternoon, August 25, 2012 from 2 until 4 o’clock at Hall – Wynne Funeral Home, 396 West Street, Pittsboro, NC for a reception to celebrate Mrs. Owen’s life.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to The Methodist Home for Children Foundation, 1041 Washington Street, Raleigh, NC 27605-1259. To arrange a gift by phone, call 888-305-4321, ext. 305. Online: www.mhfc.org
Online condolences may be left at www.hallwynne.com, select “Obits and Guestbook,” then “Current Services.”
Arrangements for Mrs. Owen are under the care of Hall – Wynne Funeral Service and Cremation of Pittsboro.