Dr. Benjamin P. Owens
Owens, Dr. Benjamin P. The face of Hibbing medicine for half a century and acclaimed as the 'heart and soul of Minnesota medicine," died on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 at the Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center of complications from intestinal cancer. He was 88 years old. A lifelong resident and 1942 graduate of Hibbing High School at the age of 16, Ben briefly attended the College of St. Thomas before entering the Great Lakes Naval Academy in hopes of a career as an aviator. A medical aptitude test administered to meet the needs of WWII, identified his potential as a physician, resulting in his being sent to the University of Minnesota medical school from which he graduated at the age of 22 in 1949. Upon graduation, Ben fulfilled his military commitment with a year internship as a flight surgeon in California and then volunteered to serve as a physician in the Naval Reserve for fifteen months during the Korean Conflict, returning to Hibbing in 1952 to begin his medical practice at the Mesaba Clinic. There he began a half century medical career marked by a compassion for people, a love of education and a community pride that would endear him to generations of Hibbing residents. Ben loved his specialty of family practice which enabled him "to know members within a family" to know them as friends and fellow humans as much as patients. In his career he made over 9,000 house calls, well into the 1980's, delivered 4,358 babies-358 in one year alone- and once estimated he had made some 342,000 patient and hospital visits. Deeply committed to rural medical practice, Ben instructed local nurses for years and served as a clinical associate professor at the UMD Medical School in the early stages of its' development. For 19 years, he often could be found, as both host and participant, in the studio of the Duluth Doctors on Call television program, presenting medical advice across the region. His dedication and sage counsel- always delivered with commanding voice-made him an easily recognized and beloved physician. His honors and awards bestowed on Ben are legion and give some indication of how well received and respected he was among his fellow Hibbingites and his peers throughout the state. Locally, Ben was chosen as Grand Marshall of the 2000 Hibbing Jubilee Parade, represented Hibbing as the 2002 Titan of Taconite, and was enshrined in the high school athletic hall of fame in 2009 in recognition of the 40 years he voluntarily spent as team doctor for football and hockey. Near the start of his career, WCCO Radio awarded Ben its 1961 Good Neighbor Award for his humanitarian work in South America aboard the hospital ship USS hope in 1960. Medical recognition included a merit award from the Association of Family Practitioners in 1970 and being named the Minnesota Family Physician of the Year in 1982. He received the 1985-1986 President's Award and the 1991 District Services Award from the Minnesota Medical Assoc. The same association of colleagues across the state honored him in 1993 for his "contributions of medical science." But the honor Ben cherished most came in 1999 from the University of Minnesota Medical Alumni Society- The Harold S. Diehl Award, given to individuals "who have made outstanding professional contributions to the medical school and to the community." Ben became the first rural practitioner to receive the prestigious award, which cited him for his "selfless commitment to his community" and recognized his as the "heart and soul of Minnesota medicine." Even in retirement in the 1990's Ben continued to practice medicine, becoming the medical director of the Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center, where he died this past week. Ben was a member of the Mesaba Country Club for 52 years where he would often be found giving "golfing tips" to young and old alike. He was also a 60 year member of the American Legion Post 452 and the Hibbing VFW Post 8510. Ben was preceded in death by his parents Benjamin P. Owens Sr. and Mary Pesavento Owens and his beloved younger brother Dr. Frank Owens, who passed away shortly before graduation from medical school. He is survived by his sister in law Mrs. Mary Scallen of Minneapolis, MN and a nephew Frank Hamel of St. Paul, MN Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 in the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Hibbing. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, with parish wake prayers at 6:30 p.m., in the Dougherty Funeral Home, Hibbing. Burial will be in the Maple Hill Cemetery with Steve Menke, Jim Bymark, Frank Catani, Jack Ryan, Todd Scaia and Ed Matonich acting as pallbearers. Memorials may be made to the Owens Pesavento Fund, c/o the Hibbing Community Foundation or the Assumption School, Hibbing.
Published on January 24, 2014
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