Remembering Charles D. Owen Jr. ACDS '53 (1935–2021): Alumnus, leader, benefactor, and friend

Today we join the family of Charles D. Owen Jr. (Charlie) and countless other individuals and institutions in Western North Carolina to mourn his loss and celebrate his life. 

A cornerstone community member, benefactor, and leader in our region, Mr. Owen has been directly involved with our school for 80 years. He was an alumnus of Asheville Country Day School, and he was an ACDS parent, Trustee, CDS benefactor, grandparent, and Regents Council member.   

The grandson of Charles D. Owen the first, Mr. Owen was the third generation of a family who have given much to the Asheville community and greater Western North Carolina region for nearly 100 years. The Owen family's Western North Carolina story began when Charles Dexter Owen, a New England textile magnate, visited Asheville in 1923. Arriving by train, he saw the Swannanoa Valley as a promising site for a branch of his Massachusetts Beacon Manufacturing Company. Charles Dexter opened the Beacon Manufacturing plant at Swannanoa in 1925, bringing jobs and company housing to hundreds of valley families. In 1933, during the Great Depression, Mr. Owen and his son Charles moved the main plant to Western North Carolina from Massachusetts, bringing even more jobs and economic opportunity to our region. During World War II, then under the leadership of Mr. Owen's son, Charles, the company received a massive government contract for Beacon's woolen blankets for the armed forces. Beacon made and shipped more than seven million blankets for this contract alone.

Charles D. Owen the younger and his wife Catherine Aitken Owen had three children, all of whom attended Asheville Country Day School: Nancy Owen Cecil ACDS '48, Charles D. Owen Jr. ACDS '53, and Jean Owen Izard '56.

Charles Jr. attended the then Pre-K-8 Asheville Country Day School, and while a young ACDS student he was the subject of several Norman Rockwell paintings: Mr. Owen's grandfather had taken a liking to the not-yet famous Rockwell and commissioned him for numerous works, many of which were for Beacon Blanket marketing and featured the young Charles Jr. After graduating from Chapel Hill, Mr. Owen followed in his father and grandfather's footsteps and he began his career at Beacon Manufacturing.  In 1971 he founded a new company, Charles D. Owen Mfg., and his new company became the largest single unit blanket producer in the world. On Mr. Owen's watch, it is estimated that the two companies provided jobs to 10,000 families in our region.

Just as it is impossible to imagine Western North Carolina region without the Owen family, it is not possible to know or imagine Carolina Day School without Charles D. Owen Jr. specifically. Mr. Owen's influence on and support of ACDS and CDS specifically were profound, and his impact is ongoing. Known as a man of many strongly held opinions- often colorfully expressed, an enthusiastic tall tale teller, and a deeply loyal friend, Mr. Owen had a gift for getting to know people's names and personal histories, had a big heart for helping those in need, and he actively served many organizations in which he believed. Having served ACDS in multiple governance and leadership roles while his four children were students, his tenure with the school and efforts behind its continued success continued beyond his children's ACDS careers. Most recently Mr. Owen served as a member of the CDS Regents Council, a position he held right up until his passing.  

CDS is honored and grateful to be a living part of Charles D. Owen Jr.'s story and legacy—our students and teachers continue to see and benefit from his support of our school every day. We are especially grateful for and proud of the dozens of students and alumni to date who we may not have seen at CDS if not for Mr. Owen, thanks to an endowment he thoughtfully established in memory of his son Bill. The William C. Owen Memorial Fund provides financial aid scholarships to students who exhibit athletic leadership and high moral character, and also provides funding for substance and addiction education programs at CDS. Established with the passion to support athlete scholars in perpetuity and the desire to provide students with tools and guidance about substance and wellbeing, Mr. Owen ensured this fund will be transformative to students for generations to come. In addition to this endowment, Mr. Owen provided generous support over the decades to ensure multiple capital campaigns and other school efforts were successful. We are also honored to have a visual tribute to the Owen family's important place in ACDS and CDS's history and success, the Owen Academic Wing in the Lower School, which was established by Mr. Owen's sister Nancy in honor of their parents.

We send our heartfelt sympathies to his entire family, and our condolences to all who knew and loved Charlie Owen Jr. May they all find comfort through their memories of him and through the profound and lasting impact he had on our Western North Carolina community.

Services for Mr. Owen were held June 25, 2021 at Calvary Episcopal Churchyard. To share a message of comfort or a memory with the family, please visit Mr. Owen's obituary page.