Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

April 12, 2014

Family, friends remember Owens at vigil

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Sgt. Timothy W. Owens. Sept. 21, 1976 – April 2, 2014.

     Linda Ellis suggests in her poem, "The Dash," when a life comes to an end, the date of one's birth and passing are less important than the dash between those dates. The dash, she says, has a much more powerful designation — what the person did with their life.

     At a candlelight vigil on the Effingham County Courthouse Museum lawn Friday, the dash for friends and family represented a loving, patriotic person and a good father.

   Cousin Tony Tucker recalled the time when Owens lived with him and his family while attending Stewardson-Strasburg High School. The two, close in resemblance and age, traveled the country together.

     “We took so many trips,” said Tucker. “We were always looking for something to make us happy.”

     Tucker spoke of a trip to a taekwondo competition in Little Rock, Ark., where the two cousins had to sleep in their car because they couldn't find a hotel. Owens, regarded by Tucker and others as extremely talented at taekwondo, ranked high at the competition.

     “We would always spar throughout the house growing up,” said Tucker. “We would play a game where you put your foot behind the other person's head when they weren't looking, so when they turned around, they got a foot in the face.”

     The duo took another trip to Pikes Peak in Colorado and hiked several mountains together.

     “He was very athletic,” said Tucker, who said he is still shocked by the whole situation. “I still can't believe it. He was like a brother to me.”

     Belinda Rueter, who coordinated the event, read a letter from Owens' daughter, Loredana.

     “My name is Loredana Owens and my dad was taken from me on April 2, 2014,” the letter read. “It was the worst day of my life.”

     In the letter, Loredana said their relationship had grown closer in recent years.

     “We had a great father-daughter relationship,” she said. “Most of my life, we had a long-distance relationship but we always tried to make time for each other. My dad served in the military for 11 years, and three years ago, he finally got to move closer to me when he was stationed in Fort Hood.”

     Loredana said she was thankful for the time they were able to spend together in recent years and noted her father's caring nature.

     “My dad and I were very close and he was a good listener too,” she said. “If I didn't want to talk because I was having a rough day, he would make me. He said it is better to let it out than keep it in.”

     Joking that her dad “would always try to embarrass me in public by talking really loud or walking really weird,” she added that she will “cherish every moment and every memory.”

     “This past year, he was the happiest I'd seen him in a long time,” she added.

     Effingham County Board Chairmann Jim Niemann proclaimed at the vigil April 11, 2014, an official day for the county to remember Owens.

     “We want April 11 to be a day of reflection and thoughtfullness for Tim Owens,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is about his sacrifice.”

     Owens' longtime friend and fellow taekwondo competitor, Paul Eatherton, spoke about their 20-year friendship.

     “He was a very optimistic guy,” he said, noting that he and Owens lived together in their late teens in Effingham.

     After speaking to the gathering Friday that included formally dressed military and color guard, Eatherton struggled with the thought of never seeing his friend again.

     “When I first heard about the shooting, I kept calling and texting, and he didn't answer,” said Eatherton. “His wife, Billy, got his phone and that is when she told me.”

     “I can still hear his voice in my head,” he said. “He was so loving, caring and outgoing.”