G. Robert Owens


On May 25th, 2019, Mr. G. Robert Owens died peacefully with family while under hospice care following complications from pneumonia.

He is survived by his devoted wife, Janie Hardage Owens with whom he shared 64 years of marriage; and two daughters, Anna O. Gillon, married to David Gillon and twin grandsons, Carter and Evan, of Atlanta; and Jan A. Winebarger, married to Allan Winebarger and twin granddaughters Lily and Laurel of Nashville. He is also survived by his sister Inez Buffaloe. He was preceded in death by his parents, George and Lonnye Owens, sisters, Laverne Condra and Elizabeth Mathews and brother Donald Owens.

G. Robert Owens, known to friends as Bob, was born in Dunlap, TN in 1933, later moving to Chattanooga where he graduated from Red Bank High School. He attended David Lipscomb College and Vanderbilt University receiving a B.A. in Psychology. He received a Master of Science in Psychiatric Social Work and Administration from the University of Tennessee.

After graduate school, he joined Dr. Nat Winston and Dr. Bruce Carruth in opening the Johnson City Mental Health Center in 1958. He became director in 1962 and remained with the growing organization until retirement in 1996 as President of Watauga Mental Health Services.

During his career, Mr. Owens was regarded as a pioneer in community mental health as Watauga Mental Services became the first Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center in Tennessee. It later expanded greatly and was recognized nationally in establishing a privately financed private psychiatric hospital, Woodridge Hospital. These efforts led to him receiving many awards including the national Presidential Award in Psychiatric Hospital Administration from the American Organization of Private Psychiatric Hospitals in 1987. He also received the Dorothea Dix Award for outstanding services in mental health from the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations in 1995. He served as president of that organization in 1963 and 1977. When speaking of his professional life, particularly while working with patients, Mr. Owens often said he learned more from them than they did from him. That reward exceeded all the formal ones.

In addition to his professional career, Mr. Owens was active in local community affairs, serving as president of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, as a member of the Johnson City Planning Commission, the Board of Directors of Johnson City Medical Center, The Dawn of Hope, the Johnson City Symphony, and Rocky Mount. He was honored by the Johnson City Medical Center in receiving the Spirit of Johnson City and the Chamber of Commerce by being inducted into its Hall of Fame. He served as Chairman of the Board of Elders and Deacons of First Christian Church and is a member of First Presbyterian Church and was a Paul Harris Fellow of the Johnson City Rotary Club. During retirement, Mr. Owens became a contributor to the Community Voices editorial column of the Johnson City Press, bringing awareness to issues that threatened to divide and encouraging respectful dialog.

The greatest joy of Bob’s life was his family with whom he spent as much time as possible. He and his wife were blessed with wonderful daughters and sons in law and these blessings were greatly multiplied by two sets of twin grandchildren, all of whom enriched his life greatly. He and Janie enjoyed traveling and experiencing other cultures, but even more precious was time spent in nature, hiking, fishing, reading and sharing stories with his grandchildren at his mountain cabin.

Although living an active social life, Bob often said his real goal in life was to follow the path of the poem by Sam Walter Foss to “Live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man”.

Bob donated his body to the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine for medical education. A memorial service will be held on Monday, June, 3rd at 2:00 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, Johnson City. Visitation with family will take place following the service in the Welcome Center.

For those who prefer, memorials may be made to The River c/o First Presbyterian Church, 105 S. Boone St., Johnson City TN 37604 or to The Dawn of Hope c/o The Dawn of Hope Foundation, 500 East Oakland Avenue, Johnson City, TN 37601.

Would you like to leave an eulogy or condolence for G. Robert Owens? If so, simply click HERE

06-12-2019 Jackie Shook Potter
Mrs. Owens, I was so saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Owens. I worked for him for a brief time at Watauga Mental Health prior to his retiring. He was one of the kindest and most compassionate people I have ever met. He was a true gentleman. He was always pleasant and always had a kind word. He truly had an impact on me. I would see him occasionally while shopping after his retirement. He never changed - always the gentleman. He was highly respected in the mental health community and will be greatly missed. My life will be forever changed because I knew Bob Owens. Jackie Potter
06-04-2019 Marco Investment Management
Mrs. Owens, Anna, David and all of the Owens family. We'd like to extend our deepest condolences at the loss of your loved one. As Mr. Owens now rests peacefully, please know that our prayers are with you. May God bless you all.
06-02-2019 Brian Montgomery
Aunt Janie, Bob will greatly be missed by everyone who knew him. My parents have always enjoyed spending time with you and Uncle Bob and coming home with fantastic stories of their time with your family. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.
06-01-2019 John Miller
Janie and family, I just found out about Bob's passing. He was my mentor; I learned more from him professionally and otherwise than maybe anyone else I've known. The world was a better place because of Bob's presence.
05-31-2019 Irene Ford
I shall miss Bob’s smiling face at the gym and how excited he would be because he remembered my name. He was a very special and extremely knowledgeable man.
05-31-2019 Gene Clark
Bob was a fine man. I enjoyed Rotary Club with him and we shared common interests while I was CEO of the Johnson City Medical Center 1974-1989.
05-30-2019 Vic Yates
Janie, my thoughts and prayers are with you at this sorrowful time.
05-30-2019 Judy Gordon-Omelka
Janie, you undoubtedly don't remember me. When my husband and I lived in Johnson City from 2004-2007, we joined the gym, and I became acquainted with you and Bob. In-between exercises, I spent many enjoyable mornings talking to Bob. We always solved the "world's problems" and always shared a few laughs. After moving to Georgia, a mutual friend of ours always kept me updated about you and Bob. When I learned from her this morning about Bob, I was deeply saddened. Please accept my deepest sympathy.
05-29-2019 Martha Ann Laningham
Janie My sincerest condolences to you and your family for Bob's passing. I will miss seeing his walking the track at Lifestyles. He always had a smile and a greeting.
05-29-2019 Ron Satterfield
I am saddened to hear of Bob's passing. He will be missed by everyone in our neighborhood. He always had a kind word and he loved to work on his beautiful flower gardens.
05-29-2019 Mark & Karen Durkee
Your family has our deepest sympathies. Covering all of you in our hearts, thoughts and prayers.


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