All of his days, Owen Widman would want us to know, were gifts from God, and not the beginning of any day was without praise for his Lord and Savior. Every morning, you would find him on bended knees, his Bible open near his easy chair.
“I can’t shake the image of Owen beginning each day on his knees with his Bible,” the Rev. John Cook told those who gathered on January 6 at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church to celebrate and remember the life of Owen Widman, who the pastor would describe as “one of the finest Christian gentlemen I have ever known, and I have known many.”
No, John Cook could not dismiss Owen Widman down on his knees in prayer on those early-morning hours and giving grateful praise for the blessings in his life.
“It profoundly shaped the man we all knew and loved,” the preacher said. “He loved the Lord his God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. And he loved his wife as much as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her. He lived his life the way Jesus told us to live ... as a servant of all.”
To know Owen Widman was to know a pastor’s words.
“My relationship with Owen goes back 40 years,” the Rev. Cook said. “I was a single lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne, and along with others at the time, he adopted me. I have eaten many Sunday meals in his home. He and his wife, Billie, threw a wedding shower for me and my wife Gaye. And it was such a blessing to renew our ties when I returned as his pastor.”
Owen Widman was born March 27, 1930, in rural Chambers, Nebraska, where his father was a rancher and his mother a schoolteacher. He attended a one-room country grade school and later lettered in football and track and field in high school, eventually enrolling at Biola University, a Bible College in southern California. And it was there where he would form a male quartet and develop a love of music that would follow Owen Widman throughout his life.
He found his way to Fayetteville while assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division on Fort Bragg.
“He began attending Snyder Memorial Baptist Church,” the Rev. Cook said, “and became involved in the youth and music ministries. And he served as a Young Life leader with high school students from several area schools.”
Love Of His Life
After military service, Owen Widman eventually embarked on what would become a distinguished career with Bryan Pontiac/Cadillac/Honda, where he became general manager and met Billie Dean Pomeroy, the love of his life.
“They were fixed up by Don and Catherine Beard,” the Rev. Cook said. “Billie needed a car, and he was in the car business. They were looking at cars in the back lot when guard dogs came toward them. She got physically close to Owen, and the rest is history.”
She was petite with a sweet way.
He was tall and handsome.
They exchanged their wedding vows at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church 56 years ago.
“I didn’t realize when I sold the car,” Owen Widman liked to tell the story, “I would be making the payments.”
She was his princess.
He was her prince.
“Owen and Billie were very devoted to one another,” the Rev. Cook said, “from day one.”
The marriage was blessed with two daughters.
“Owen was an incredible father to his two daughters,” the Rev. Cook said. “He
braided Boo’s hair when she was little. He helped Lola take care of a baby starling that had fallen from its nest and nursed it to health until it was ready to be released into the wild. He was very approachable to his girls. When Boo experienced some bullying at school and told Owen, he said, ‘I love how you talk with me, but have you talked with Jesus? Jesus is more than your Savior. He will be your best friend. But my favorite story they told was about his early a.m. routine. Owen was an early-riser and they found him on his knees before his chair with his Bible laid out before him. He was the spiritual leader of his family.”
‘Jesus Guided His Life’
Owen Widman’s family, to include the grandchildren he adored, were the centerpiece of his life, but his God and his church were the core of his being.
“It was Owen’s faith and his personal relationship with Jesus that guided his life,” the Rev. Cook said. “He loved this church, and gave so much of himself in service to it from Sunday school teacher, deacon, moderator, Prime Timers, Heritage Place, Training Union director and countless committees, including pastor search and minister of music search.”
And generous with his time and talents when it came to the church’s sounds of music to include the Sanctuary Choir, the Men’s Ensemble and the annual Singing Christmas Tree.
“Owen never wasted an opportunity to witness,” the Rev. Cook would say. “He gave out Bibles to anyone who needed one. He was a true servant. Always looking for ways to serve and minister to others. Everything pointed to Christ.”
Owen Eugene Widman died Jan. 1, 2021.
He was 90.
“He was the epitome of a Godly man, demonstrating God’s love with all of his actions and the way he loved those around him,” a granddaughter wrote on her Facebook page. “His family was his world, especially my grandmother. Even in his final days, while in the hospital, he shared the gospel with a nurse who had been taking care of him. That nurse stayed hours after her shift to make sure his procedure went OK and to visit with him afterward. That is the kind of impact he had on everyone he came in contact with. I thank God for the 26 years I had with him, and for the incredible honor and blessing of being his granddaughter.”
‘The Last Full Measure’
Garry Winebarger, too, would post on his Facebook page.
“I was praying for Owen Widman on New Year's Day morning at about the very time he passed from life here to life in heaven,” Winebarger wrote. “I was fortunate to get in a visit with Owen between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Owen told me that he had gotten Billie up and ready to go to the beauty salon to have her hair done.
“While she was in the chair at the salon, she could not get comfortable due to her condition. Owen held her leg to try to keep her calm, but it was not working. Then he held her hand and she was better. He said he held her hand the whole time her hair was being done. I was so touched by that story of his love, devotion and kindness to Billie. This was so Owen Widman.
“We visited a little more and then Owen said, ‘I had better get back in there and hold her hand to keep her calm,’” Winebarger wrote. “We said Merry Christmas and bye, and he took his tired self inside to take care of his sweet bride. It was a powerful moment for me as Owen demonstrated in front of me what selfless love looks like. As I reflect on Owen's final days on this earth, the words of Abraham Lincoln come to mind, and I do not borrow these words lightly. Owen "gave the last full measure of devotion" to Billie, and left us with a powerful example of love. Well done Owen! You will be greatly missed.”
The preacher looked into the faces of those in the sanctuary. He had told them once and could not help but remind them again.
“Owen Widman was one of the finest Christian gentlemen,” the Rev. Cook said, “I have ever known.”
Next week: First vaccines a day to remember
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or 910-624-1961