Viola Marie Owens


Viola Marie (Gillespie McNelis) Owens was born July 31, 1919, in Wolbach, Neb., to William James and Margaret Elizabeth (Hardy) Gillespie. She was the third of five children.         

Viola married (Daniel) Edward McNelis Oct. 8, 1937, in Greeley, Neb., and had six children: Peggy (Margaret Marie McNelis Gibson) Mansil, of Moscow, Mo., Edward (James) McNelis, of Nampa, Idaho, Janice (Viola McNelis) Davis, of Brighton, Marcy (Marcella Elizabeth Marie McNelis Stackpole) McNelis, of Westminster, William (Joseph) McNelis, of California and Daniel Emmett (1951)

    Viola and Edward moved to Idaho in 1948 with their four oldest children. Edward was killed in 1950 in an auto accident outside Cascade, Idaho. In the first year following Edward’s death, Viola faced the loss of a stillborn son, a daughter’s appendicitis and her own appendicitis, a son’s rheumatic fever and a daughter who was in the hospital for 10 weeks after being hit by a car. Her daughter was released from the hospital a year to the day Edward was buried. Viola married (Buffard) Ray Owens June 7, 1958, in Gunnison.

    The couple moved to the Brighton area from Nampa in 1959 with Viola’s two youngest children, Marcella and Bill. They built the family home in 1960. Viola and Ray resided in their home until April 2008, when they moved into Sterling House in Brighton. After a hospital stay in May 2008, Viola resided at Brighton Care Center and moved into Inglenook at Brighton in September 2008. Following another hospital stay in December 2008, Viola returned to Brighton Care Center where she lived until the time of her death.     

    Viola’s husband, Ray, lived at Sterling House until February 2009, when he was moved into assisted living in south Aurora. Viola worked at the Great Western Sugar Factory in Brighton for several years starting in the early 1960s, following the death of her grandson. Prior to this job, Viola had always been a housewife and mother working in her home and raising her kids.

    She helped her husband develop a hobby into a successful printing business. She quit the sugar factory and worked full time in their printing business, R and V Printing, until it was sold. Viola and Ray started Western Key where she worked until the sale of the business and her retirement. Viola was a charter member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Auxiliary in Englewood and later helped organize a Fraternal Order of Eagles aerie and auxiliary in Brighton.

    Viola and Ray danced with the Square Hoppers Square Dance Club in Brighton for many years. They enjoyed traveling to other square dance clubs in the area for square dances. Viola and Ray belonged to a campers club and enjoyed campouts with the club and traveling the United States in their RVs. They also visited Alaska on a cruise and went to Germany twice to visit Viola’s youngest son. Viola loved her dogs, Spunky a mini Schnauzer, Peaches and Kai both shih tzus. Spunky and Peaches are waiting for her on the other side of The Rainbow Bridge, and Kai is now living with Marcy in Westminster. Viola was a member of the Longs Peak Church of God for several years and a large financial contributor to the church for the expansion and air conditioning and other projects vital to the church. Viola’s greatest love in her life was Ray, and her five children, three of whom she was estranged from at the time of her death.

    Viola said the hardest and most rewarding job of her life was raising her kids to be responsible productive adults and did not want to be judged as a bad mother because of the way one child turned out. The greatest joy in life was her granddaughter, Paula Jo (Stackpole) Bell, born on her 50th birthday.

    Viola was preceded in death by her first husband; an infant son, Daniel Emmitt McNelis; her parents, William and Margaret Gillespie; her brother Lee Gillespie, of Lincoln, Neb.; two sisters, Leona Jorgensen, of Burwell, Neb., and Hazel Prell, of Kansas City, Kan.; a daughter-in-law, Marla Mayer McNelis, of Boise, Idaho; a grandson, Mark Thomas Gibson; a granddaughter, Brenda Lee Davis, of Brighton.

    Viola is survived by her spouse, Ray Owens, and a sister, Doris Meyer, of Vista, Calif.; five children, 18 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

    Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m., March 31, at Tabor-Rice Funeral Home. Funeral will be at 2 p.m., April 1, at Tabor-Rice Funeral Home. Interment will follow at Elmwood Cemetery.

    Memorial contributions may be made to Colorado Community Hospice, c/o Viola Owens, 3501 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, CO 80211. Tabor-Rice Funeral Home handled the arrangements.


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