Jim Owen enjoyed a milkshake Tuesday morning and asked The Batavian to take his picture during her visit to see him at Crossroads House.
Owen is no typical City of Batavia resident, and taking his picture has become commonplace amongst local media during special events. So commonplace, in fact, that when he saw a second volunteer, he wanted a picture taken with her as well.
Crowned the Mayor of Redfield Parkway by City Council for his longtime civic and neighborly involvement in the community, Owen has been fighting his most important battle this year: esophageal cancer.
His temporary residency at United Memorial Medical Center brought many visitors to his room, and the flow of people has not stopped at the Liberty Street comfort care home that he moved into more recently. It has been so busy with well-wishers that it has, at times, been hard to keep up with the continuous traffic.
Crossroads staff and friends have been maintaining his online presence and posting updates. This was the latest one:
“Update on Jim, and a reminder from the Crossroads staff. Jim is still resting and being well taken care of at Crossroads House. Visitors are still welcome and very much appreciated; however, we want everyone to know that Jim has grown somewhat more confused over the last several days. The staff feels that the visitors Jim receives are comforting and beneficial to him, but asked us to remind everyone to keep the visits to no more than 15 to 30 minutes in length so he can get his rest.
Again, please do not let this message discourage anyone from coming to visit, but just be advised of the Crossroads House staff wishes which they feel are best for Jim. Thank you, and we will keep you informed of any changes or news.”
Likewise, people have responded with likes, hearts, care emojis and fond messages of encouragement. Visitors may also sign a guest registry and offer words of comfort to Jim, who, despite seeming tired, still has his sense of humor and kindness intact.
During Tuesday’s visit, he said that volunteer Julie Mancuso lives on his street. He then corrected himself to say that “I live on her street.” And as they discussed which street was the best in the city, he gave a thoughtful pause and rephrased it all together.
“The best street is the street you live on,” he said.
He knew this reporter and The Batavian’s publisher — who he refers to as his adopted brother. (Jim’s last name is Owen versus Howard Owens.)
When many people in his situation would be thinking about things they missed out on in life, Jim talked about how he wanted to do more for the community during Tuesday’s visit, Owens said.
“He said he always tried to treat people well because ‘when you feel good about yourself, you do good things. You make a contribution,'” Owens said. “He said he would like to see a scholarship set up to help people with his disease. Jim Owen has spent his life trying to teach us all to be better human beings, and even now, he’s still trying to spread that message.”
Jim seems to be absorbed in wanting to help people, help the community, and perhaps even help the world in some way. He described himself as just a pin or cog in the wheel of life, but if he can make at least one person happy, he has accomplished something.
Jim Owen, you have done far more than that. You have reached out to neighbors and friends, shared tidbits of Batavia and Owen family history, garnered support for the naming of the BHS auditorium after your late father Frank E., fought for the restoration of Redfield’s well-known pillars that have served as guideposts to the VA Medical Center, and greeted, supported, chatted with and smiled upon countless folks during your longtime commitment to Batavia and its citizens.
That’s not only worthy of a milkshake and a photo, but also a grateful nod of thanks from your friends and community members.
Top photo of city resident and Mayor of Redfield Parkway Jim Owen enjoying a milkshake with volunteer Cathy Winding Tuesday at Crossroads House in Batavia; and above, also with volunteer Gail Wysko. Photos by Joanne Beck.