Miss Faye celebrates her 90th birthday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 28, 2004

Saturday’s turbulent weather threatened to put a damper on five months of planning, but it was all sunshine and smiles inside the fellowship hall of Damascus Baptist Church as friends and family came together to celebrate an extraordinary lady.

Faye Boutwell Owens was honored last weekend on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

&uot;Actually my birthday is on August 26th – we’re just celebrating early,&uot; the birthday girl explained with an impish smile.

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A big surprise

The celebration was a complete surprise for &uot;Miss&uot; Faye, who admitted the outpouring of love and appreciation &uot;made me want to cry.&uot;

&uot;We certainly put one over on you, old girl, didn’t we,&uot; daughter Judy Thomas teased her mom. Thomas planned the event after her daughter Jill Brown suggested the idea for a surprise 90th birthday party back in March.

Her daughters, Brown and Jennifer Morris, and her older sister, Daisy Phelps, went to work setting it all up.

Well-wishers brought cards and monetary gifts to add to Miss Faye’s &uot;birthday tree&uot; along with colorfully wrapped presents and plenty of hugs and happy greetings. Guests were also encouraged to write special messages in a keepsake book for the celebrant to enjoy reading.

&uot;You might just want to include your address in there…everybody knows how much Mother likes to send cards,&uot; said son Raymond Owens, referring to Miss Faye’s long-time card ministry.

&uot;There may be folks Grandmother hasn’t seen in 50 years, but I bet she still sends them a birthday card ever year,&uot; grandson Jay Thomas remarked.

Family members provided a full southern style buffet meal for Miss Faye’s guests, featuring rib-sticking favorites like fried chicken, deviled eggs, chicken casserole, potato salad and field peas. Bolling Phelps prepared a delicious rose-trimmed birthday cake for the occasion.

Union Baptist Church Pastor William Burns and wife Jeanette, guests at the event, said they had known Miss Faye all their lives and had many fond memories of this &uot;kind and gracious lady.&uot;

&uot;I was friends with [her sons] Raymond and Randy and remember Miss Faye inviting me to share meals. That was back in the days when a lot of folks didn’t have much more than biscuits and a little sugar – but you shared what you had,&uot; recalled Brother Burns.

A growing family

Faye Boutwell was born on August 26, 1914 to a family of three girls (including twin sisters Mavis and Mazie, who passed away four years ago) and two boys, Ernest and Earl.

Miss Faye married Jesse Kirby Owens in 1934 at the age of 20, becoming mother to Doris, Juanita, Farrell and Gerald, whom she considered her very own. The couple added Raymond, Jeanette, Daisy, Randy and Judy to the brood.

She had three children to die as infants.

Let me see my kids grow up Son Raymond recalled difficult days of long ago when his mother fought a serious illness. &uot;Mama was very sick back then, so I dropped out of high school to help my dad expand the farming operation. We didn’t know if she was going to make it,&uot; her son explained.

&uot;One night I overheard her praying to God to let her see her children grown…within one month from that prayer she was well enough to be back working in the fields. She has not only seen her kids grow up, she’s seen her grandkids and even some of the great-grandkids grown,&uot; Raymond said with a smile.

Raymond recalled how hard his mom always worked to help provide for the children. &uot;She worked out in the fields, hoeing peanuts and cotton and pulling corn. She worked for most anybody who give her farm work…she had a hard time of it, but she never complained,&uot; he said.

Even when his father was still alive, &uot;it was the tail end of the Depression and times were tough,&uot; Raymond said. &uot;I remember there were times when Mama would cook whatever she had in the house, give to the kids to eat and she’d go to bed hungry.&uot;

Raymond took on the role as head of household after Mr. Owens passed away in 1954, but eventually felt the call to become a minister.

&uot;I knew I needed to go to school, but I felt bad – I mean, how would Mama and the kids make it? I remember her telling me, ‘Don’t you worry, God will provide.’ So I went on to school – though my brother reminded me I still sent home lunch money for the kids,&uot; Raymond recalled.

Raymond considers the Owens children to be blessed by the example set by Miss Faye.

&uot;She has always been so supportive of her children, no matter what trouble or difficulty they faced in life. She also has this note and card ministry going,&uot; Raymond explained. In that ministry, she keeps a pretty extensive address list, and in this era of email, Owens still believes in a personal note or card.

She sends cards to those who are sick, celebrating birthdays or anniversaries or she’ll send a card or note just to let someone know she is thinking about them.

&uot;Mama’s been a blessing to many people over the years,&uot; Owens said.

We are blessed to have a mother who is kind, patient and encouraging.&uot;

As the afternoon progressed, more and more guests arrived to share their good wishes with Miss Faye. Judy Thomas beamed with delight. &uot;This has really surprised us – we never thought we’d have such a wonderful turnout.&uot;

As Miss Faye posed for countless photos with various family members and friends, the 90-year-old kept a smile on her face and laughter on her lips.

&uot;Mama is still very sharp…and if she thinks it, she’ll say it,&uot; Judy said with a smile.