Thomas Richard “Tom” Owens, 67, of Durkee, died June 17, 2008, at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.
A memorial service and gathering will be planned for Tom toward the end of August in the Burnt River Canyon.
Tom was born on Feb. 12, 1941, at Fort Edward and grew up in the Adirondack Region of New York State. In addition to serving four years in the U.S. Navy, Tom earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry, was just four credits short of his doctorate in theology, and was fluent in five languages, which included Latin.
Prior to relocating to the Burnt River Canyon in 1980, Tom taught junior high curriculum in public schools at New York, Vermont, and New Mexico.
Known to many locally as the “Professor,” Tom continued to educate, whether through home-school tutoring, sharing his lore of the area and terrain, introducing newcomers to mining or becoming engaged in one of his many philosophical debates, his friend Esa Murrell said.
Becoming somewhat of an icon in the canyon, Tom chose to live simply in the old cabin on his mining claim. He lacked many of the modern-day amenities such as running water, electricity, or automotive transport.
He walked the hills and valleys, and he walked to town and back for his mail. He read extensively by natural light or oil lamp, he wrote letters with pen and paper to communicate, and refrigeration was an old ice box or the river. His caves were his air conditioning for the 100-degree-plus days and a big potbellied stove was his heat for the zero temperatures of winter.
A stroke in 2002, which limited some of his activities, focused Tom even more intently toward his insatiable appetite to learn, including studies in archaeology and the classical works.
Survivors include several cousins, many friends and numerous students scattered across the United States.
He was preceded by several decades in death by his father, mother, and brother.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, June 26, 2008
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor