When I was a little girl, my grandpa “Doc” used to stand in the kitchen in his home in Goldsboro, North Carolina, reach over the counter, and knock on the front door. I’d come running from the living room.
“I’ll get it!” I’d yell excitedly. “Who is it?”
Doc would shrug and wait for me to open the door. “No one’s here,” I said while stepping out onto the stoop.
“They must have run off,” Doc said. “I think I saw them go that way.”
A few minutes would pass and just as I’d get settled down again on the couch—knock, knock. Back I’d run to the door.
Surprise! No one was there. This happened repeatedly until I realized by the smirk on Doc’s face that it had been him knocking all along. I wish I could say that I didn’t fall for this joke more than once. Don’t blame me! I was young!!
I only knew Doc as my jokester grandpa. He was the one who always made me laugh and pulled the funniest pranks.
What I didn’t know about Doc was that not only was he a highly-esteemed doctor—hence “Doc” instead of “Grandpa”—he was a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel. Doc was fresh out of medical school when he became a General Medical Officer in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1942. He joined the U.S. Army Special Training Program during WWII, served in Germany, and was promoted to Captain of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Several years later, he served at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and attained the rank of Colonel.
I wish I knew all of this because Doc told me. To be honest, I only know these details because of his obituary. Doc died from Alzheimer’s before I ever had the chance to ask him about his life and military service. I was young, and I didn’t know any better. By the time I wanted to know more, it was too late.
Thankfully, in my career as a journalist and a life storyteller, I have had the privilege of getting to hear and preserve the stories of dozens of veterans. I may not have been able to capture Doc’s story—I have interviewed my mom about him—but I can spend my days interviewing and preserving the stories of men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country. Their stories of heroism never grow old!
An Excerpt from my grandfather Doc’s Obituary:
Dr. George Frank “Doc” Owen was born July 6, 1919, in Dunn, North Carolina, to George F. Owen Sr. and Lula Phillips Owen.
Dr. Owen graduated Magna Cum Laude/Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor of science degree from Wake Forest University in 1941. He attended the University of North Carolina Medical School, Phi Beta Kappa and earned his Certificate in Medicine in 1943. Dr. Owen then went on to Jefferson Medical College, in Philadelphia, where he earned his MD Degree in 1944. His medical internship was at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia from 1944 to 1945. He served as a General Medical Officer from June 13, 1942 to June 7, 1943, in the U.S. Army Reserves. He joined the U.S. Army Special Training Program on July 7, 1942, and served until May 31, 1947. He was promoted to Captain of the U.S. Army Medical Corps during that time.
After returning from WWII, Dr. Owen completed his General Residency in Internal Medicine, in Durham, North Carolina. He worked in a general medicine practice in Durham from 1949 to 1968, before opening a general medicine practice in Rose Hill, North Carolina.
Dr. Owen’s military service included his last duty station of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, from 1975 to 1984. During his tour there, he served as Hospital Commander, Chief of Hospital Services, Chief of Radiology Services, Director of Allergy Program, and General Medical Officer. Dr. Owen attained the rank of Colonel while serving in the U.S. Air Force.
After retiring from the U.S. Air Force, Dr.Owen became a Staff Physician at O’Berry Center in Goldsboro. He then transferred as a Staff Physician to Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, and retired in 1993. He remained in Goldsboro until 1999 when he moved to Green Cove Springs, Florida, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, to live with his daughters Jane and Susan.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty Jane Taylor Owen, whom he married on February 15, 1946, and is survived by his children, Susan Owen (Bill) Rutherford of Grand Rapids, Jane Owen MacDonald of Florida, and Lindsey Ann (Tommy) Vick of Burgaw, North Carolina, as well as one grandchild, Lauren Rutherford (Michael) Befus.