Former Seymour man honored to military hall of fame

A Louisville native who spent more than a quarter of his adult life in Seymour received a dozen medals for his military service during World War II and the time he later spent serving the Indiana National Guard.

Maj. Gen. John N. Owens, who is buried at Riverview Cemetery on the city’s north side, also received Indiana’s highest civilian honor — being named a Sagamore of the Wabash.

But those awards and accolades are just part of the reason Michael Rogers of Seymour decided to nominate Owens to the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame earlier this year.

“I’ve known General Owens since I was a small child, and he set the standard high for all the young men who had the opportunity to know him,” Rogers wrote of Owens, who died July 22, 2006.

On Nov. 13, at the Renaissance Center in Carmel, 18 people with Hoosier ties, including Owens, will be inducted into the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame. Nearly 50 people were nominated to be included in the second class of the hall, which was founded in 2013.

Eight of the inductees, including Owens, and former Indiana governors Edgar D. Whitcomb of Cannelton and Joseph E. Kernan of South Bend will be inducted in the combined military and community service category. The other 10, including George W. Boffo of Commiskey, will be inducted in the valorous military category.

Owens was born April 18, 1920, in Louisville, Kentucky, to Arthur Robert Owens and Elva Estella Owens. When he was 4, the family moved to Salem, and he graduated from Salem High School in 1938.

On Dec. 31, 1940, he married Betty Maxine Cook, and the couple would go on to have three daughters, Dana Jo Bollinger of Seymour, Donna Lee Wyatt of Bloomington and Cindy Lu Owens of Sarasota, Florida.

Owens enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 17, 1942, at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis and served in the European Theater of Operations with the Seventh Army during World War II.

During his military service in World War II, Owens received the Legion of Merit Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, EAME (Europe, Africa, Middle East) Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars, World War II Victory Medal and World War II Occupation Medal.

He also later received the Indiana Distinguished Service Medal and Indiana Volunteer Medal for his time with the National Guard Bureau.

After his release from active duty March 1, 1946, Owens was a sales director with International Harvester Co.’s Seymour dealership from 1946 to 1950; co-owner of the company’s North Vernon dealership from 1950 to 1964; and general manager of F.F. Buhner Co. in Seymour from 1964 to 1969.

In 1949, Owens joined the Indiana National Guard’s 38th Infantry Division as a captain. Whitcomb appointed him an adjutant general Jan. 13, 1969, and Owens received federal recognition as a major general in August 1970.

That same year, he rejoined the active U.S. Army and was attached to the National Guard Bureau. He was assigned to Indiana at the U.S. property and fiscal office and was stationed at Stout Field on the southwest side of Indianapolis.

Rogers wrote that he decided to enlist in the military and serve in Vietnam because of some of the things he learned from Owens.

“His service in the Indiana National Guard not only as a leader, commander and mentor to so many young men, by impressing upon them the importance of duty to our great land was a lifelong commitment,” Rogers said.

Owens served as a director of the Jackson County Mental Health Association and was a member of the Rotary Club of Seymour and Elks Lodge 462.

At a glance

List of Maj. Gen. John Owens’ decorations and awards

Legion of Merit Medal

Good Conduct Medal

American Campaign Medal

EAME (Europe, Africa, Middle East) Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars

World War II Victory Medal

World War II Occupation Medal (Germany)

Armed Forces Reserve Medal

Army Achievement Medal

Indiana Distinguished Service Medal

Indiana Commendation with Oak Leaf Cluster

Indiana Long Service with 20-year device

Indiana Volunteer Medal

Sagamore of the Wabash

Author photo
Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.