Friday, January 19, 2007

Washington College's Oldest Alumna Dies at 102

Chestertown, MD, January 19, 2007 — An educator, a lifelong community activist and a pioneer in the field of elder affairs, Rebecca Neal Owens '25 passed away January 7, 2007, in Port Charlotte, Florida, at the age of 102.

She is remembered as spirited and independent, with a lively intellect and strong will. Even well into her 90s, Neal Owens was still driving her own car and was active in the organization she helped found, the Charlotte County Council on Aging.

Owens moved to Florida in 1975 from New Jersey, after retiring as director of the City of Newark's Office of Elder Affairs. She was appointed to the Charlotte County Advisory Council on Aging in 1977 by the County Commission. She was elected chairwoman and remained the council's driving force for many years.

Under her leadership, the council launched the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and a congregate meals program—which now operates out of the Rebecca Neal Owens Center in Punta Gorda. A handyman service and a transportation program are also part of the services Owens brought to the senior population there.

A history major at Washington College, Neal Owens went on to teach and later earned a master's degree. In retirement, she redirected her energies toward community service and became an advocate for the aging, frequently appearing before state and national legislators on behalf of the elderly. In recognition of her work as a volunteer in elder affairs for more than 30 years, she was recently an honored guest at the 45th annual meeting of the AARP Charlotte Chapter.

She last visited campus in 2000, returning for her 75th Class Reunion and taking the position of honor at the head of the Commencement processional. She had been the first female president of Alumni Council. According to Owens, "Attendance had been awful until they installed me as president. Then, all of a sudden members didn't miss a meeting. The men were afraid of what I might do."

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