Owens & Company was founded in 1980 by two brothers with a vision. Service, high ethical standards, and a people-first philosophy led to spectacular growth in a few short years. Thus began the first sentence of the Owens & Company, REALTORS website back in the mid-1990’s. It was a time when few companies had websites, and I doubt many people read it until years later. Working for Jeff Owens (and his brother, Ron) however, we lived that philosophy every day.
Sadly, my friendship with Jeff Owens began and ended with a funeral, although ended is perhaps the wrong word. It was the last week of September, 1989, and I had interviewed for a job at Owens & Co., assisting the sales manager, Barbara Delaney. Jeff Owens called and offered me the job, calling me “sweet lady” on the phone. “We’d like you to come work with us, sweet lady.” “What a kind man,” I thought.
It would be the first of many times he’d call me that over the years. The day I was to start, I got a call from Barbara explaining that the Owens brothers had lost their father, who had lived in Stuart, VA. So it came to be that burying Guy Lamar Owens was my first introduction to his sons.
Kathy Martin, the company Comptroller, and I left the office that morning and rode to the funeral together. Neither of us had been to Stuart before, and we truly didn’t know where we were going. After the ceremony, we made a wrong turn and accidentally drove to North Carolina instead of back up to Roanoke. We wound up in Mayberry, looking for the Snappy Lunch and a pork chop sandwich. OK, it was actually Mt. Airy, but in our hearts it was Mayberry. Of course, we stayed only a few short minutes; we were expected back at the office. Most of the ride back to Roanoke was spent figuring out how we were going to explain our absence. How was I going to tell my brand new boss that I went AWOL on my first day of work? We settled upon telling the truth, as embarrassing as it was. Jeff and Ron never said an unkind word about it, instead thanking us for making the trip to Stuart.
Over the years, many Roanokers passed through the doors of Owens & Company. Jeff always greeted visitors with a smile, a handshake, and the offer to come in and sit down, whether the guest was a local celebrity, or the guy who stocked the coffee machine. Speaking of coffee, in all the years I knew Jeff, I’m not sure I ever saw him without a cup. He’d re-fill his mug before it ever was empty. Most visitors never realized they were sharing a coffee with the company President. He loved and respected people, and it showed.
Jeff’s love of people served him well throughout his real estate career, in fact, he sold homes for many families time and again. Over the years, he would assist his clients’ children to purchase their first home. He took pride in dotting every “i” and crossing every “t.” Each client mattered to him as if they were the only one. In recognition of his outstanding career, Jeff was voted REALTOR of the Year in 1996 by the Roanoke Valley Association of REALTORS.
Jeff Owens-Life Outside of Work
Jeff had many interests outside of real estate, however. Golf was a passion for him, often playing with friends Steve Turner, Don Lilly, and Keith Robertson. He also loved attending the Roanoke Regional Home Builders functions and was a secret bowling fanatic. (Many people never knew he was an excellent, and very competitive, bowler!) That said, none of these activities compared to his love of God, of his family, and of his friends.
We lost Jeff Owens to lung cancer, seven years ago tomorrow. He was 58 years old. When I get up tomorrow morning, I’m not going straight to work. First I’m going to take a ride, not to see my boss, but to see my old friend. I’m going to bring him a cup of coffee.
RIP Jeff, not a day goes by…