Robert Lee Owens, Sr. was born on May 6, 1931 to Harrison Owens and Rudell Killpatrick in Savanna, Illinois. The family moved to Rockford, Illinois in November of 1946. Robert attended West High School where he met the love of his life, B.B. Stephens. Robert was a proud member of the West High graduating class of 1949. Robert was accepted to Bradley University and received a full-tuition scholarship to pursue a career in education. Love detoured his plans so he left Bradley and married B.B. Stephens on September 30, 1950. God blessed them with 62 years of marriage as they provided a great example of enduring love and dedication.
Robert professed his faith in Jesus Christ at an early age. Robert and B.B. joined Pilgrim Baptist Church as a young couple. He grew closer to God and exercised his ministry gifts under the leadership of Reverend Dr. E.H.E Gilbert, Sr. His gift of hospitality was used when he joined the Usher Board. Robert was well trained since his mother was the President of the Usher Board. If Robert welcomed you, you knew you were truly welcomed. Recognizing his servant’s heart, Robert became a deacon in training under Reverend Dr. E.H.E. Gilbert, Sr. After more than ten years of training, Robert was ordained as a deacon on March 14, 1976. In May of 1990, Pastor Steve Bland Jr. started the Trustee Ministry and Deacon Owens was appointed as a trustee. Deacon Owens quickly became the Chairman of the Trustee Ministry and held that position for over 15 years. Reverend Dr. Kenneth R. Board and the Pilgrim Baptist Church honored Deacon Owens with Deacon Emeritus status on December 16, 2012.
Robert was a hardworking man. He was employed at a local machine repair company for many years prior to joining Chrysler. He was the 5th employee hired for the Chrysler Belvidere Assembly Plant. Robert was charming and engaging; hecredited his success to hard work and the gift of gab. As the first African Americansupervisor at the Chrysler Belvidere Assembly Plant, he was responsible for the Air Tool Repair Department. Robert retired in May 1991 with over 25 years of service.
Robert was the patriarch of his family and widely respected by many. In addition to raising his five children, he also raised two of his sisters-in-law, Rose Hilton and Wanda Nowling. Robert loved children and had a big heart for people. Affectionately known as Uncle Bob Bob, all children had a safe place to rest and eat at the Owens home. He was the mayor of Island Avenue and nothing happened without him knowing about it! Robert lived by the motto, “Family is Everything”. Although he worked 40hours a week at Chrysler, Robert always made time to attend after school activities with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Robert was the President of the Julia Lathrop Elementary School Parent Teacher Association and served with the Y Indian Guides. An avid music lover, he loved attending events and hosting students from the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps.
Robert was preceded in death by his loving wife, parents, sisters, Lizzie Owens McCraley and Dorothy Kilpatrick Harden, sister-in-law Rose Hilton, and brothers-in-law Robert Stephens, Louis Nowling and Joe Love. Loving memories will be cherished by his children: Sharon Moore, Robert (Fannie) Owens, Jr., Constance Taylor, Diedre (Andre) Harvey, and Stephen (Sheila) Owens. Survivors also include sister,Barbara Wilson, sisters-in-law, Jewel Love and Wanda Nowling, brothers-in-law,Charles Hilton and Richard Stephens, and cousin, Richard O’Neil. Surviving also aregrandchildren: C. Michael (Fetije) Wilson, Christia (Ivan) Hicks, Schaticqua (Jonto) Swift, Adrienne Taylor, Kimberli (Tony) Owens, Erin (Rae) Mieskowski, DeondraHarvey, Derek (Franshandra) Owens, Chelsea Owens, and Morgan Owens;greatgrandchildren: Ahna Wilson, Dushanka Wilson, Austynn Hicks, Ashley Hicks, Alana Swift, Michael Wilson, Anya Hicks, Jeremiah Swift, and Kayden Harvey;his godchildren; Dawana Johnson, M. Carol Gaynor, Richard Pincham, Jr., and Erica Holman.
The family wishes to express our sincere appreciation to the entire staff of Mercyhealth Hospice and all who expressed sympathy during this time. We remain assured Robert has received his reward for his labor.
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