Louis Owen never understood why some wealthy people spend their money on private airplanes and yachts. He felt that money was something to be used for good, not hoarded.
Owen died Thursday. He was 82.
The company he helped found, Petrofac, was very successful - especially when it went public - but Owen had no intention of spending his wealth on frivolous things. According to his wife, Peaches, he once told her, “I guess I’ll always be poor, because I can’t do that, I can’t bring myself to spend money that way.”
Instead, Owen used his success and wealth to help people. In 2010, he and Peaches celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary by donating $18 million to Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics to build a seven-story heart hospital. It was one of the largest philanthropic gifts ever made in Tyler.
And there were many, many other gifts. The couple supported numerous charities and relief agencies, ranging from Catholic Charities to the Bethesda Health Clinic to the East Texas Crisis Center. They provided needed funding for hospitals, libraries and food banks through the region. Their generosity was felt beyond East Texas, through their support of the Rainbow Network, which builds homes and clinics in Nicaragua.
In 2006, he and his wife formed the Owen Family Foundation. That foundation is now being managed by Dawn Franks of Your Philanthropy.
“It was important to him that the resources the Owen family had amassed be used to make a difference,” Ms Franks says. “It was certainly demonstrated in the Heart Hospital, but also countless times in the giving from the Owen Family Foundation, which made large and small gifts to many, many organizations. The grants that mattered the most to Louis were the ones that helped people who were hurting the most.”
Yet Owen was never comfortable in the spotlight. He had a spirit of humility and he was always quick to deflect attention from himself. When he was honored by various organizations, he usually let Peaches do most of the talking.
Indeed, Louis and Peaches sometimes reminded people of George Burns and Gracie Allen, with Owen playing the straight man.
His quiet, gentle manner was inspiring to people of all ages.
And this community is better for having had the great good fortune to call Louis Owen one of its most outstanding citizens.