Bobby Joe Owens, husband of former Grand Forks mayor, dies in Florida; an 'awfully good boss' and a 'good man,' former employee says

Bobby Owens.jpeg

Bobby Joe Owens was capable, kind and hardworking, said those who knew him.

Owens, 83, died Wednesday, March 18, in Summerfield, Fla., according to an obituary in the Herald. Owens was married for 61 years to former Grand Forks Mayor Pat Owens, who led the city during and shortly after the devastating Flood of 1997.

Bobby Owens, who was born in Greenville, S.C., served in the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, and met his future wife when he was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base. He worked 39 years for the city of Grand Forks, retiring in 2001 as manager of the Grand Forks Civic Auditorium, according to his obituary.

“He was an awfully good boss,” said Dennis Foley, who worked under Owens both at the Civic Auditorium and for the city.

“I worked for him from 1978 until he left Grand Forks,” Foley said. “He was very family-oriented. If you needed to get a work day off for something your kids had in school, he was good about that.


“He wasn’t just about the bottom line. He was a good man. He cared about others,” Foley said.

John Schmisek, former Grand Forks city finance director, recalls that Owens was a hard worker with a friendly personality that was well-suited for his job as Grand Forks Civic Auditorium manager.

“He fit that mode perfectly. He was very outgoing. I remember a lot of times working with him on budgets, and with that facility, he didn’t have the resources a lot of larger cities would have. Still, he was able to do the job of bringing in acts, keeping that facility pretty darn busy,” Schmisek said

Ken Vein, former Grand Forks public works director, recalled that Owens helped the city during the Flood of '97 by allowing public works to set up a sandbagging station at the auditorium.

"We used their facilities as part of the flood fighting, which was essential," Vein said, noting that after the flood, FEMA set up shop at the Civic Auditorium. "He was instrumental for us in public works at that time, utilizing the spaces."

Owens is survived by his wife; his children, Barry Owens, Ocala, Fla., Robin (Robert) Flurer, Bismarck, and Pam (Ken) Roebuck Rochester, Minn.; six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

A family graveside service will be held at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Fla., with military honors at a later date, according to the obituary. Arrangements are with Beyers Funeral Home and Crematory, Lady Lake, Fla. Online condolences may be left at

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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