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Friends remember local businessman as caring

Profile image for By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer
By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer

Jimmy Owens, longtime co-owner of B&O Towing, was known by friends as a man who never met a stranger and did all he could to help others.

The longtime Denton businessman died Wednesday. He was 76.

Owens spent almost all his life in Denton. Born in Honea Path, S.C., he was less than a year old when he moved to Denton with his parents, Mary and Harry Owens. He graduated from Denton High School in 1954 and went on to attend North Texas State University, now the University of North Texas.

In September 1957, Owens and best friend Lewis Behringer leased B&O Gulf Service, an auto repair and wrecking company, in the 300 block of North Locust Street. About 14 years later, the duo purchased the towing business.

Behringer, the “B” of B&O, met Owens more than 60 years ago in junior high school. They graduated from high school together and were classmates for two semesters in college before going into business together.

Behringer calls his friendship with Owens the greatest friendship he’s ever had.

“We just kind of clicked,” Behringer said. “We never had a bad word against each other.”

Owens retired from the business after 30 years. In 1987, he was shot once in the abdomen and twice in the leg in a shootout with a burglar in his home, according to Denton Record-Chronicle archives. About 12 years ago, Owens was diagnosed with lymphoma, Behringer said, and he had a strong desire to live for his family and friends.

“He was a caring man, a family man,” Behringer said. “He loved all of his friends.”

Owens’ former business, which still remains on Locust Street but now in the 200 block, does business under the name B&O Towing.

Dale Brown, who owned Brown & Brown Body Shop, met Owens in 1959 while working at a body shop that had Owens and Behringer’s company do all its towing. Brown recalls having a good relationship with Owens, who he said taught him automobile mechanics.

Later on in life, Owens helped Dale Brown and his son Scott in the real estate business by making some rental houses available.

There was no gray area with Owens, Brown said, and people knew exactly where they stood with him. Brown called Owens someone who quietly helped a lot of people and was never one to boast about it.

“He was a very loving person,” Brown said. “I’ll remember him as someone who was very helpful and very caring about people.”

Brown also said that because Owens spent almost his entire life in Denton, he knew more people than anyone and he called Owens “the book of knowledge about Denton.”

Danny Byington, owner of B&O Towing, said Owens was like a father to him. He met him in the 1980s while working for another wrecking company that often worked some of the same accidents as Owens. Byington recalled Owens as someone concerned about helping others, unselfish, honest and a hardworking man who worked seven days a week.

“He never met a stranger. Everybody loved him,” Byington said. “You never saw him angry. He was always concerned about other people’s needs instead of his. He was just one of a kind.”

Owens is survived by his wife of 42 years, Mona; two sons, Jim and Whit of Garland; stepson, Randy Grisham of Denton; two stepdaughters, Sherry Mellgren of Frisco and Sondra Dickerson of Gordonville; four sisters, Savannah Smith of Anderson, S.C., Linda Dyer of McKinney, and Dianne Spickler and Mary Ann Sellers of Denton; 12 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by daughter Shelli Leach, who died in 2004.

Bill DeBerry Funeral Directors is handling the funeral arrangements. Visitation will take place from 5 to 8 tonight followed by services at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Denton. Burial will take place at Roselawn Memorial Park.

Donations may be made to the Shelli Leach Scholarship at Denton High School or to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.