A kind and giving woman, whose philanthropic efforts in health, education and faith greatly impacted the Tyler area, died Saturday morning.
Philanthropist Marie “Peaches” Owen was a friend to everyone she met and hoped to eliminate human suffering through her works in nonprofits. She was 82.
To celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary in 2010, Owen and her husband, Louis, donated $18 million to allow Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics to build a seven-story heart hospital. The building was named Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital in their honor.
“With the passing of Peaches Owen, Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System, Christus Trinity Clinic and the Northeast Texas health care community lost a generous, compassionate and supportive family member. We are grateful for the legacy of encouragement and philanthropy she — alongside her husband Louis — have left behind in their name,” Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System said in a prepared statement.
Her husband, Louis, died July 28, 2016, at the age of 82. They were married Sept. 3, 1955, at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Houston. They met in high school and married while he was a student at Rice University. She was born Feb. 4, 1937.
Scott Fossey, vice president of philanthropy at Christus Health Northeast Texas, Louisiana and Southeast Texas, said the Owens created a legacy of love, compassion and healing with the ability to reach future generations.
“Perhaps providentially, Peaches passed from this world and rejoined her husband, Louis, exactly seven years to the very day of the opening of the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital,” Fossey said. “Peaches’ infectious enthusiasm and passion to help others will never be forgotten by her extended Christus family within the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System.
“The Owen family’s philanthropic generosity and compassionate desire to help the people of Northeast Texas will live on for generations. The hope and healing their gifts have and will continue to provide through their immediate family will impact families across Northeast Texas and this nation for decades to come as an extension of His healing ministry. Our prayers are with the entire family during this difficult time.”
Deb Chelette, vice president of operations at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital, said Mrs. Owen wanted the staff at the hospital to be their best.
“Not only did Mrs. Owen bring the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital to our Northeast Texas community, but she regularly reminded our teams that the building was only as good as the people who served in it,” Chelette said. “Peaches inspired our teams to be their very best, and we are both blessed and honored that Mr. and Mrs. Owen chose us to carry on the great legacy that they’ve left our community.”
Patrick Willis, of Signature Consulting, was a friend of Peaches Owen for close to 20 years and he remembers her as a genuine, friendly person. They met through activity in the nonprofit field.
“Peaches Owen was probably one of the most authentic people I’ve ever known,” he said. “When you were a friend of Peaches Owen, you were a friend of hers for life.”
In 2006, the Owens established the Louis and Peaches Owen Family Foundation, which has given funds to many organizations throughout East Texas and the Twin Cities, Minnesota area.
“So that this and future generations may experience the joy of charitable giving and develop a deep-rooted sense of philanthropy, the mission of the Louis & Peaches Owen Family Foundation is to share the gifts God has bestowed upon our family by contributing to a broad range of charities,” Louis and Peaches Owen said in a statement on the foundation website.
Chris Glenney, Christus Health senior vice president of group operations, Christus Health Northeast Texas CEO and Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System president, expressed his appreciation for Mrs. Owen’s role in helping the health system, especially through the heart hospital.
“Mrs. Owen was a friend and constant encouragement to us for many years, and played a vital, lifesaving role in the lives of so many through her support of our mission and the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital,” Glenney said. “She leaves a legacy behind that is cherished by every member of the leadership team, the physicians, associates and countless patients whose lives have been forever changed for the better.”
Willis called it a privilege to be friends with Peaches and Louis Owen and their three children.
She was fond of the Literacy Council of Tyler, a board member of the R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center, involved in the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County and a believer in education, Willis said.
She and Mr. Owen were both members of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Flint. Her faith was a guiding principle for her.
“She just valued people to her core,” Willis said. “You can’t ever be around Peaches Owen without seeing that smile. She always had a smile.”
The Owen family also donated to the initial building campaign for the St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church and they were also involved in their expansion plans.
Willis recalled her being nonjudgmental and very caring. She was also an avid golfer.
In a statement from an article regarding Mr. Owen’s passing, Bishop Joseph Strickland sent a statement through the Diocese of Tyler, describing the couple as the “epitome of what we hope a Catholic family will be: committed, faithful and joyful in encountering all that life brings.”
Mrs. Owen is survived by three children, John and his wife, Rebecca; Louis Paul and his wife, Teresa; and Celeste Rekieta and her husband, Bob.
A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Flint. A Rosary service will follow the visitation.
Mrs. Owen’s funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the church with a graveside service afterward. A reception in Peaches Hall at the church will follow the graveside service.