February 18, 2021
March 23, 1945 – February 9, 2021
Frank Hayden Owens was born on March 23, 1945 in Townsend, Montana, to Gomer and Lois Owens. He was the youngest of three children. The family moved to White Sulphur Springs, Montana, while Frank was in elementary school, where he was raised alongside his sister Mary Jane and brother Jim until graduating high school in 1963.
Frank spent summers of his teenage years logging in the mountains with his dad. It was there he developed a life-long love and appreciation for the outdoors that would be present his entire life. He also worked alongside his dad in the summer of 1960 in Gomer's placer mining operation, west of White Sulphur Springs near Confederate Gulch. Frank inherited a portion of the hard-earned gold. He later would divide it up equally and give one ounce to each grandchild as a reward for graduating high school. He was so proud to share this piece of his life and the legacy of his father's passion for gold mining.
Frank graduated from Montana State University in 1968 with a degree in education. He began his career in Conrad, Montana. Later that same year, he and his wife Carole welcomed their first son, Derek. In 1970 they moved to Thompson Falls where they had two more children, Chad and Tolli. It was there that Frank settled in as the beloved Mr. Owens of Thompson Falls High School for the next 28 years. Thousands of students went through his history classes, and most will tell you he was their favorite teacher and can tell you a story or two of how he influenced, helped and inspired them. Frank could be found with a yardstick in hand teaching during the day, and in the gym running the scoreboard and announcing for basketball games in the evenings and on weekends. In the summers, Frank worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a campground attendant, but let's be honest, we all know Frank spent his days making new friends over a couple beers around a campfire.
Frank remarried Jeanne and in 1988, they welcomed Chelsie and four years later, John was born. The house he built at Graves Creek off Blue Slide Road with help from his dad and many friends was situated in a perfect spot to raise kids who would grow up with idyllic childhood memories. The old Bayliner traveled up and down the Clark Fork River too many times to count. Many would tell you they learned to water ski behind Franko's boat. He would later gather his friends once more to help build a cabin up Thorn Creek. This cabin was Frank's pride and joy and he loved sharing its rustic beauty with everyone. Storytelling and poker were favorite pastimes, and many would say some of their favorite memories with the Owens' were at the cabin.
Hunting with his kids and their friends was something Frank was most proud of. Many have treasured possessions of their first buck mounted on a homemade plaque engraved by Franko or pictures with him standing stoically, but beaming with pride. He often traveled to his hometown of White Sulphur Springs for antelope and pheasant hunting, and maybe toss a line into the Smith River.
Frank's hunting and fishing camps were legendary. The best of friends including Gene, Dean, Kent, Torgy, Gundy, Wheeler, RJ, Rick, Curty, Brad and Warren (to name a few) would plan for weeks to make their time together memorable and full of pranks and shenanigans. Once their sons were old enough to get their hunting licenses, the guys would welcome them to the sacred camp. If you were ever lucky enough to be part of this tradition, you no doubt carry priceless memories and witnessed genuine friendship among these men.
No matter if you knew Frank as a father, a friend, a teacher or an acquaintance, it was easy to see that he was a good man. He loved quietly, but fiercely and when his oldest son, Derek, passed in 1997, a little bit of his heart died too. Soon after, he met Leta (lovingly called Sunshine), who he learned to laugh with again. Together they made wonderful memories during their travels and adventures to Florida visiting the Keys and Frank's brother Jim and his family.
Frank was preceeded in death by his son Derek, his brother Jim, and his mom and dad, Lois and Gomer. He is survived by his sons Chad (Shae) Owens and John (Morgan) Owens; daughters Tolli (TJ) Willhite and Chelsea Owens; sibling Mary Jane Indreland; and his life partner, Leta Behmerwohld. Frank (and his baked treats) were loved dearly by his many grandkids, Dean, Kylan, Jack W., Avery, Nate, Matt, Easton, Zack, Jack, Ripken and Kamden.
Frank's life will be celebrated with family and friends later this summer when his ashes will be scattered among those of Derek's on Owens Point.
Truth time... They say the power of a person's life is in the people and stories they leave behind. Franko left an amazing legacy behind in both his family and the stories and memories that will live on in all who loved him. From from what we can tell, this includes everyone he ever knew, because if you knew him, you couldn't help but love him. Rest easy, Franko.