Monday, September 20, 2010
A few weeks ago we celebrated the life and contributions of Johnnie Owens, long-time board member of Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and beloved community leader, by dedicating the Hebert Community Garden as a tribute to her. Now, we’re sad to report that Johnnie passed away on Sunday after a hard-fought battle with cancer.
All of us who had the pleasure and privilege to have known Johnnie will miss her positive spirit, common sense perspective, and constant readiness to lend a hand. We dedicated the Hebert Garden to Johnnie because of the key role she played in bringing life and beauty to what otherwise could have been just another overgrown and abandoned empty lot. But Johnnie’s love for her community couldn’t be confined to one corner of the neighborhood. Johnnie was present at -and involved with- almost every community improvement initiative taken on by Old North St. Louis Restoration Group.
She was out there with a trash bag picking up litter on neighborhood clean-up days; she was there at the sign-in table at countless neighborhood meetings or house tours, greeting neighbors and visitors alike with a friendly welcome; she was there at Executive Committee meetings at 7:30 in the morning and out at Quality of Life meetings that went well into the evening hours later that same day; she represented Old North at meetings outside the neighborhood and she helped to bring neighbors together right down her street; and she was there just about any time we asked for help.
Old North is a stronger, more vibrant community today because of Johnnie Owens. We were incredibly blessed to have had Johnnie as part of the Old North community.
Johnnie with John Bratkowski and Mayor Francis Slay in October 2008.
Johnnie at one of our construction worker appreciation coffee breaks in March of 2008.
In 2004 Johnnie (in the yellow hat), serving as a greeter at the annual Old North House Tour.
National Night Out, August 2006.
In 2005, Johnnie was part of the delegation that traveled to Jefferson City to receive an award from Missouri Preservation and proclamations from Old North
Although Johnnie often was called upon to be out-front as a representative of the community, she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty with the thankless, glamourless, and often unseen work of cultivating a garden and building a better neighborhood.