Wendell Owen, was born on February 28, 1923 on 7th Street in Ogden, Utah to Charles Henry Owen (1887-1984) and Betsy Vilate Kingston Owen (1888-1931), the sister of Charles William Kingston. Wendell had a natural talent for music and rhythm even at an early age. His parents used to play piano and fiddle for dances, so he grew up in a home filled with a love for music. He learned to play piano by ear after his older sister, Barbara, showed him some basic chords. He also took cello lessons and lead in his school’s orchestra. At one point the Salt Lake Tribune offered free harmonica lessons to any boy who would show up with a harmonica, which he did. Out of the group, Wendell was selected along with 5 or 6 others to play on the KSL Radio station, and he alone was asked to play a solo. Like his father, Wendell began to chord on the piano for dances as just a young boy. He played with a lame man, who was on the fiddle, and a blind man on the accordion. The dance band was affectionately called, “The Lame, the Blind, and the Boy”.
Wendell grew up during the time of the Great Depression. His father was a hard-working man and did all he could to take care of his family and others around him. Wendell remembered once, as a young boy, they were at the store and a poor destitute little boy asked Wendell’s father, Charles Owen, for some money. He asked what it was for, not wanting it to be wasted on candy, and the boy replied that it was so he could buy a potato, so his family could eat that night. Wendell's father was so moved with compassion, that he bought the boy a whole sack of potatoes. The boy’s eyes lit up and he ran home excitedly with the sack of potatoes.
Another example of the tough times people faced during the Great Depression happened a few years later. Wendell’s dear brother, Carlos Owen (who also later became a lifelong member of the Davis County Cooperative Society), discovered a little baby in the hallway of a rooming house they were staying in. A destitute mother had left the baby on a doorstep. Carlos ran and got his older brother Wendell, and told their parents who in turn contacted the authorities. The mother and baby got the help they needed.
During this time, Wendell’s father had worked various jobs throughout the Depression to support his family. One man he worked for went broke and ended up paying him in flour, so Charles Owen used the flour to pay others to do work for him. One job he offered on a farm in Cottonwood was ditch digging during 1930-1931. One of his hires was his brother-in-law, Charles William Kingston, or “Uncle Charlie”, as Wendell remembered calling him.
Regarding his cousins, the Kingstons, Wendell later wrote:
“Although I knew Elden [Kingston] and the rest of the family on sight, I was not really very well acquainted with them for the simple reason that they lived in Idaho Falls and we lived in Salt Lake City. That was a long way to travel with the roads and cars of that day and we didn’t make the trip very often.”
Shortly after Elden Kingston married Ethel Gustafson in 1931, they visited one of the their acquaintances there in cottonwood and Wendell, as a young boy, was asked to show the newly weds the way to his father’s house so they could visit with him. Wendell remembered the couple walking closely together, holding hands, and talking. He said he could tell how much they genuinely loved and cared about one another, and it left a lasting positive impression on his mind.
Wendell’s parents Charles Owen and Betsy Kingston were outstanding members in the LDS Church, and Charles Owen had served a mission to the Eastern States years earlier. So in 1931, at age 8, Wendell Owen was baptized as a member. Later, in May of that year, his mother passed away while giving birth to a little baby girl, who they named Bessie. Wendell was afterwards raised by his wonderful stepmother, Earlene Hull Owen, for a short time, until her passing in 1937.
It was also during these times leading up to and during the Great Depression, that Charles Owen became acquainted with the Fundamentalist Movement of the 1920’s of which the Woolleys played a large part. His association began through business dealings, and when he first learned of the beliefs of some of his associates, he was quite opposed to the ideas. But through careful study, consideration, and inspiration, he and his wife felt that this was the course they wished to follow in their life.
Separately, when Elden Kingston started the Davis County Cooperative Society, on January 1, 1935, Wendell’s father and his family were not aware of it and continued their association with the supporters of the Woolleys. Charles Owen began a United Effort Project called the “Service Exchange” with members of that movement to try and help many of those that were still struggling from the affects of the Great Depression, but it wasn’t as successful as he had hoped it would be.
Wendell Owen wrote about his cousin,
“Later in the year , Elden came to our house and asked for me. He had brought cantaloupe that he was peddling and asked if I would like to take some around the neighborhood in a wagon to sell. I agreed and he left two sizes, telling how much to sell them for and how much of it would be mine for selling. I never did keep any of the money until he came back and I had given him all of the money and let him pay me my share.” Wendell mentioned that Elden would always give his family any extra cantaloupes that were not sold in order to help them through the tough times of the Depression. Wendell also made sure not to take advantage of Elden's generosity, and always tried to sell all the cantaloupes, even though he knew they would get the leftovers for free. Regarding this visit, Wendell wrote: “I remember that first day when he had come, it was Earlene who had answered the door. That night when dad came home, it seemed she could hardly wait to tell him about his coming. She said of Brother Elden, ‘He looked so wholesome.’ She had apparently recognized the spirit that he carried.”
From 1936 to 1937, Wendell’s father, Charles Owen, struggled through another job to support his family, but it just wasn’t enough to make ends meet. That year, he happened to meet up again with his brother-in-law, Charles W. Kingston, and told him the situation they were in. “Charles [W. Kingston] suggested he come out to Bountiful with his boys and work with their crew to weed gardens and pick fruit for the neighbors. That way we could all help to make the money. He said they had an extra tent we could use in their pasture as we worked there.”
The Owens moved to Bountiful and began working with the members of the Davis County Cooperative Society. One night, when Charles W. Kingston came over to their tent, they had a discussion on the goals and purposes of the members of the DCCS. Charles Kingston read to them passages out of the Bible and explained the values and goals of the Society. Charles Owen and his family decided that the goals of the DCCS were the same as their own and they applied for membership. Their family became members on July 4, 1937. Wendell was 14 at the time, and being a very responsible and intelligent young man, he always chose to be involved in these types of conversations. He was as eager to join the DCCS as his parents were. Later that summer, Charles Owen’s family began working on a farm in Lyman, Wyoming with another family who was a part of the DCCS. In September of that year, as stated before, Wendell’s stepmother, Earline Hull Owen, also passed away in childbirth. It felt like lightning struck the family twice. But they had the DCCS community to support them through this time.
Charles Owen and his family had a deep love and respect for DCCS founder, C. Elden Kingston, and the type of person that he was. Wendell later wrote:
“My Father used to tell this story about Bro. Elden; after the farmers [in Wyoming] had all harvested their grain they would all get together to help each other run the threshing machine. Whichever farm they were on, that’s who was in charge of the crew. Bro. Elden had come out to Wyoming to help with this crew. … One of the neighbors, as he was assigning jobs, didn’t know Bro. Elden. So, he assigned all the easier jobs to the ones he knew, and when he got to Bro. Elden, he said, ‘And this fella can go out and pitch!’ (Pitching was one of the hardest and most strenuous jobs of the whole crew.) My father, in telling the story, would mention the humility Bro. Elden had. He did not say, ‘Why should I have a job like that?’ … As my father would say, as he was telling the story, ‘And so that fella went out and pitched!’”
Wendell worked with his father in Wyoming for 2 years, until he was 16, and then went and worked for a farm operated by Marion Brown in Idaho. Even as a young man, Wendell lived his life as an outstanding example of high moral conduct and service to others. That holiday season, many of the families at the Idaho farm went down to Bountiful, Utah, as they were accustomed to do. But there were enough chores on the farm during the season that someone would need to stay. Wendell and another boy, both being young and single, volunteered to stay and carry the responsibility.
He remained there during the holiday season and received one gift in the mail.
“For Christmas I got a package from my father... It was a pair of work mittens. A note said, ‘You will need these to do the chores, Merry Christmas.’ I knew my father. I knew what he meant was, ‘You’re a man now, stand tall and do your job, Merry Christmas.’ I’ve always been thankful he wasn’t one who would say, ‘Why are they picking on you, you should be able to come home for Christmas.’”
A couple days after New Year’s Day, when the families returned to the farm, Wendell learned that he had been given the number 34 in the DCCS for his continued dedication and service to his community. He also knew that with it came an expectation to further live as an example of high moral conduct. It was an honorary title that he lived up to, appreciated and treasured all his life.
That year in 1940, Wendell went to help on a farm in Elmo, Utah, where Elden Kingston had been working. During this time, Wendell had an experience with Elden that left another lasting impression. One day he and Elden were out working when a very angry neighbor rode up on his horse. He was cussing and yelling at Elden about some horses always getting into his fields. The horses belonged to a neighbor on the other side of Elden’s farm and the man assumed that they were getting through Elden’s property in order to get into his fields. The man didn’t realize the horses were getting through a tiny piece of fence where the other neighbors’ farm touched his and it was broken. Wendell wrote,
“Brother Elden remained very calm and did not become the least bit upset with the neighbor, no matter how much he swore at Brother Elden. He simply waited until the man had finished talking and had calmed down somewhat…”
Elden calmly explained to the man what was happening and then offered to fix the other man’s fence.
“The neighbor then apologized to Brother Elden for cussing at him and rounded up the horses and drove them back through the fence. Brother Elden then did as he promised and repaired the fence himself, even though the fence was between the other two farmers’ lands and didn't have anything to do with Brother Elden.”
Over the next couple of years, he worked at various places until about the end of 1941, when Charles Owen, with the help of Elden Kingston, worked out a deal to farm a piece of land in Saratoga Springs, Utah. This was around the time that Pearl Harbor was bombed, and the United States entered WW2. Because Wendell was a major hand on the farm, he and others on the farms were deferred from being drafted into the army. Many other families whose sons were drafted would make comments about the unfairness of the situation.
So Wendell and his friend decided they were going to enlist in the army anyway. Elden Kingston happened to be visiting the farm, and they shared with him what they were planning on doing. Elden's opinion on the matter was that there was a reason they had not been drafted, and that he felt the best thing would be for them to do all they could to carry the responsibility for God and their country that they had been called to carry. They chose not to enlist. Wendell remained working on the Saratoga farm with his father for the next four years.
During this time, a man from San Francisco named Pencovic (who later changed his name to Krishna Venta), began coming around to enlist followers to his religion. He wanted to convert the people of the Co-op. Elden Kingston always encouraged people to be free-thinkers, to learn all they can, to be able to work with people of all religions, doctrines, ideologies, and cultures, and to learn to discern truth from error. Elden encouraged DCCS members to attend Pencovic’s lectures and judge what they thought about them. Many members, including Wendell Owen, felt Pencovic was a fraud, but Elden encouraged them to let each person discern and decide for themselves. At some point, Pencovic asked if he could build a cross monument on a farm in Kaysville being operated by a DCCS member, and they agreed to allow him to build. Some even volunteered to help with construction. This is the same “Kays Cross” now shrouded in odd legends today. On the cross were inscribed the letters WKFL, which Pencovic used to represent his own Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, and Love Fountain of the World organization. When construction was completed, Pencovic called a meeting at the site of the cross to make some declarations to the members of the Co-op. After Pencovic spoke, he asked Elden Kingston to speak to them also. Wendell remembered that the wind picked up as Elden began to speak,
“The picture that was impressed on my mind that day was the humility that Brother Elden had as he stood there speaking. It was in such obvious contrast to the spirit that Pencovic had. To this day, when I think of what humility should be, I picture Brother Elden standing there before[us] in that wind.”
Pencovic, having been unsuccessful in pulling any converts from the DCCS, returned to California.
Over the next few years of his life, Wendell had the opportunity to work in various industries and was considered a “jack-of-all-trades”, although he was a master of them all too. For a while, he hauled coal with his dear friend, Dean Stoddard. He would often be driving odd hours of the day and night and need places to stay. One time, while in town, he stopped off to stay at the Kingstons’ home. He needed a few hours of sleep and would be off before the sun came up. Ortell Kingston, Elden’s younger brother, had a room there, but was out working late. His sister Ardous, told Wendell he could stay in Ortell’s room. He wondered if he should wait until Ortell got home and ask him. She replied, “No. It will be fine. Go ahead and go to bed.” After Wendell was in bed with the light off. He heard Ortell come home and quietly speak with Ardous for a bit outside of the room. Then, assuming Wendell was asleep, he opened the door quietly, quickly flicked the light on and off (to see where Wendell was located), and then went to bed without disturbing Wendell in any way. Wendell, still awake, was impressed by the consideration Ortell had for him. Here he was sleeping in his bed, and yet Ortell did not mind the intrusion, and did all he could to not disturb him. Wendell said he had never met anyone who was more considerate than Ortell was. He also said as a young man, he noticed the type of outstanding character and successful practices Ortell had, and he thought to himself, “That man is going somewhere in his life. I want to go wherever he’s going.” Wendell and Ortell continued to work together and became life-long associates, friends, and brothers.
Throughout his life, Wendell continued to work in various industries simultaneously and even started multiple businesses. He was very successful everywhere he went and always strove to improve the quality of life of those around him. He worked all over the State of Utah from Circleville to Carbon and Emery County, to Woods Cross, to Kaysville, taking his family with him, with the goal in mind to serve God and his fellow man above himself. Although he never attended college himself, he taught a Machinist Class with the Paiute School District in Circleville for a time. His students in the class were earning college credit running through the Severe Valley Tech College. As with many things in his life, he was a self-taught and excellent machinist. With the help of some of his hired students, he also designed and built two diesel shuttle cars for underground coal mining, for which he was recognized by the industry.
Wendell Owen was also a family man. He cared for his family and loved his children dearly, and strove to raise them to be respectable and honest members of Society. He also made sure to spend time with his family and share with them his love for music, including dancing and theater, as well as other activities like gardening, orcharding, hiking, camping, fishing, etc. His children all grew up in a very loving and nurturing environment and believe him to be the greatest father on earth.
In 1976, he was voted in by the membership and sustained as a member of the Governing Board, a position that his father had previously held at the time of the Incorporation of the DCCS in 1941. He was sustained unanimously and served as a board member every year of his life afterwards until his death in 2013.
It was around this time, that he along with other members of the DCCS, having previously been excommunicated from the LDS Church, had a desire to have a church in order to teach the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his family. After the Latter day Church of Christ was incorporated in 1977, he and his family became members.
In 1978, he moved to Huntington, Utah to work for C.W. Mining Company and eventually became the general mine manager, working in the industry with his close friend, Bill Stoddard. He successfully helped establish the mining operations in Bear Canyon near Huntington, UT. It was also very important to him and other DCCS leaders to maintain the highest standards of production, and to keep the mine in compliance with all government regulations, which he continuously encouraged employees to do. He managed the mine for over 20 years, leaving a huge impact on all who interacted with him, and making many friends and acquaintances there in Emery County, both of DCCS members and non-members. There was a sizable immigrant community from Mexico that had developed in Huntington at the time, and C.W. Mining was one of the few places they could be hired and establish their families. Wendell worked to create a culture that allowed a peaceful work environment for people of all backgrounds and cultures.
He also accomplished many other things during this time. One of those was the decision to take up square-dancing and other forms of ballroom dancing. As his children began to grow and want to attend dances in the 1970’s, he felt the standard of dances of the era were not ideal morally. So he learned old-fashioned square-dancing and taught it to his children. (They even became skilled enough to go around performing dances in various places.) He began to hold his own dances and invite others. Eventually, "Wendell’s Dances" became a house-hold name for DCCS members, a tradition that continues to this day.
During this time, he also began to get more heavily involved in the educational and Sunday School programs of the Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ. He was a key player in impacting many peoples’ lives in the most positive way. Like his father had been, he was a deeply religious man. He was just and always held true to his personal convictions. He wasn’t just a man who believed his religion, but he lived it and taught it as well. By about 2003, at age 80, due to his health he had to retire from employment, and he moved to Murray, UT. He remained active in his Church and as a unanimously sustained member of the DCCS board of directors until his death. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones on July 23, 2013, at the age of 90, having lived a life full of accomplishment and happiness. He left behind a legacy that touched the lives of many friends and family. He is loved by all of his children, who hold him in the highest regard because of the way he lived his life, and the father that he was. See his Obituary here:
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