Obituary 6 August 2007
Dennis Charles Owen, a long serving member of the Morriston Orpheus Choir has died at the age of 75.
Dennis was born in Swansea on 31 May 1932. He lived in Powys Avenue, Townhill, Swansea with his parents Rose and Elwyn and older brother Colin and younger sister Joan. Dennis attended Townhill School and was a choirboy at St. Nicholas on the Hill.
Dennis was a happy, popular child, who at the age of 10 formed a close, life long friendship with his best friend Frank, who lived down the road. Dennis greatly admired and looked up to his brother Colin, who was 9 years older then Dennis.
During the Second World War, Dennis’ brother Colin went abroad to serve in the RAF as an aircraft Navigator. Tragically, in July 1944 Colin’s plane was shot down over Italy and Colin lost his life at the age of 21. This was an extremely difficult time for young Dennis and his family.
At the age of 15, Dennis and his best friend Frank left school to take up painting and decorating apprenticeships. Dennis completed his apprenticeship with Bennett Brothers. Dennis excelled in his profession and went on to run his own successful decorating company. This was a career he followed until his retirement.
Between 1952 and 1954 Dennis undertook national service. He was initially assigned to the army’s Post Office section in London and later Dennis helped to maintain the Army’s London accommodation. At this time, Dennis’ little sister Joan recalls that she greatly missed Dennis and would wait eagerly at the bus stop for his return visits home to Swansea. Dennis would bring his little sister gifts back from London including books about the Coronation. Dennis was a wonderful, loving big brother. Joan recalls how Dennis “always looked out for her”. Dennis would give his little sister pocket money on a Thursday and sweets, which he would hide around the house for her to find. He would take Joan to the cinema and theatre trips. Dennis was always fun to be around and Joan loved her brother.
Following his national service in London, in 1954, Dennis returned to Swansea. In the summer of 1956, Dennis fell in love with Barbara Thomas, who he met at a dance at The Casino in the Mumbles. Dennis and Barbara married in May 1957 so began a very happy marriage of 41 years. They moved into Carmarthen Road with Barbara’s parents, whilst they worked and saved hard to buy a house.
Three years later Dennis and Barbara purchased their home in Bayswater Road, Tycoch. This pretty bungalow, which Dennis painted the brightest and jolliest blue, was to remain the happy family home for the rest of Dennis’ and Barbara’s lives.
Dennis and Barbara had two sons, Philip and David, who they adored. Philip and David recall a very happy and fun-filled childhood. Denis was a devoted father who encouraged and supported his sons in all areas of their lives, from coaching them in rugby and cricket on the playing fields of Ashley Road to guiding and supporting them through their education and careers. Philip and David share their dad’s sense of humour and fun and are extremely proud of their dad. The family recall spending many happy holidays camping in the Gower.
In August 1968 Dennis’ nephew Alan and his wife Margaret, spent the second week of their honeymoon, with the Owen family on holiday in a small caravan in Oxwich. At the time David was only 18 months old and Philip was 3. Both Alan and Margaret recall it was a very happy honeymoon, although somewhat crowded!
Margaret and Alan became very close friends of Barbara and Dennis and have provided invaluable care, support and assistance to Dennis and his family throughout the years. Sadly Barbara died in 1998 after a long illness. At this difficult time, it was a great comfort to Dennis to have the support of his friends, family and neighbours and particularly the support of his special friends in the Morriston Orpheus Choir.
Dennis joined the Orpheus as a second tenor in the summer of 1988 and was a committed chorister. He travelled extensively with the Choir, raising money for charity and visited many countries including America, Australia, Berlin, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Oman, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates. He was very proud to be a member of the internationally-acclaimed Morriston Orpheus Choir, and honoured to have sung at venues including the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall, New York and at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations in the presence of the Queen in London.
Dennis enjoyed cooking: he made cakes, baked bread and made jams and preserves from the apples, plums and pears he grew in the garden. He possessed a large collection of joke books and after dinner speech books and he loved to tell stories and jokes to entertain others. Dennis was indeed a very creative story-teller. He particularly liked to make up stories of his war time adventures to tell his two much loved grandchildren, Harry 7 and Rebecca 5. The action he experienced working in the army’s Post Office was truly astonishing and Rebecca and Harry frequently looked forward to the next, thrilling instalment of the military action their granddad experienced in the backrooms of the Post Office.
However, it wasn’t until Dennis reached his 70s that his story telling talents fully emerged. When most of us would be thinking of taking it easy and pottering around the garden, Dennis enthusiastically embarked on a new career. He was now D C Owen the Author. This all came about when one of the choir members and close friend of Dennis’, Hugh O’Neill, was unable to travel on a Choir tour of New Zealand and Australia and Dennis, not wanting his friend to miss out on the Choir’s adventures, offered to keep a diary for him.
Dennis’ talent for writing and his creative imagination soon provided enough material for a publication entitled “With my Friends in a Welsh Male Voice Choir”. This book was guaranteed at least 200 sales, as members of the choir clambered to see what Dennis had written about them and whether they were featured in the book. Indeed, Dennis was never short of friends in the year prior to publication!
Dennis was keen to publicise his work, providing copies for sale in the bookshop Borders, the local shops of Swansea and for loan in public libraries. His son David recalls that on a shopping trip with his father Dennis asked to stop the car so that be could pop into the local library to enquire about the availability of a book. Dennis went up to the counter and asked the librarian enthusiastically: “do you have a copy of “With my Friends” by D C Owen.” They waited patiently as the librarian undertook a search on the computer. After a few minutes the librarian gave out a short sigh and said: “Sorry sir, but that book is currently out on loan”. “But”, the librarian continued helpfully, “if I can take your name and address I can order a copy for you”. A big smile erupted over Dennis’ face – he was delighted that someone was reading his book – and both father and son made a hasty exit from the library.
Dennis dreamt of his book being made into a Hollywood movie, with Catherine Zeta Jones playing Val Howells. Who knows one day it just may be…….
“Dennis was one of life’s real gentlemen” said Hugh O’Neill, former Chairman of the Morriston Orpheus Choir. “Dennis sang in over 400 engagements. He never had a bad word to say about anyone, but if he did, he withdrew it in the very next sentence! He was never restrained from offering useful advice to anyone, on any topic they would care to mention. Even if the topic was outside his experience, he would turn the situation around to give useful advice on a totally different subject, but nevertheless, an interesting one. He had a wonderful sense of humour, wonderfully displayed in a book he wrote in 2003, called ‘With my friends’ a chorister’s experience on a tour with the Orpheus. Tears rolled down people’s cheeks in fits of uncontrollable laughter at some of the stories in the book. Even people who didn’t know the personalities personally were given a hilarious insight into their true character. It was brilliant. We shall miss Dennis. He always smiled at people and they were infectiously obliged to smile back – he had that ability, in a quiet way, to make people who met him feel touched by his gentleness and humour and to feel better than they did before” added Hugh O’Neill.
Dennis enjoyed many other pleasures in life including fruit and vegetable cultivation, Aunty Margaret’s Sunday roast dinners, and above all the Saturday morning Car Boot Sale in Singleton. Dennis would get up early and be at the sale by 8am most Saturday mornings to hunt out the bargains for himself and others.
Dennis loved finding bargains and acquiring free gifts from major companies. He saw this as a challenge to be fully embraced. His sister Joan recalls that one day, Dennis’ potato crop was failing and suffering from potato blight. Rather than pop into Wilkinsons to by some fungicide, Dennis phoned the Ministry of Agriculture for some hopefully free help. The official listened intently as Dennis described the outbreak of potato blight on his land. The official enquired about the acreage affected by the outbreak. Oh Dennis replied, just two rows.
Dennis always looked on the bright side of life and always had an entertaining story or a joke to tell.
Sadly Dennis passed away on July 28 but peacefully at Ty Olwen at the age of 75.
Dennis would undoubtedly have smiled at his 7 year old, grandson Harry’s reflection this week. Harry turned to his father and said:
“Granddad is happy now. He’s in heaven with Grandma and George Best”.
Dennis has led a full and colourful life. He enjoyed life to the full and fought his long illness with great courage and dignity. Dennis will be greatly missed by all his family and friends. His beloved sons, Philip and David, his cherished sister Joan, brother-in-law Jimmy and sister-in-law Iris. His daughters in law Rachel and Dawn and his dear relatives and friends Alan, Margaret, Kathryn and Andrew. His best friend Frank, special friends, Hugh and Sian and his many friends who belong to the Morriston Orpheus Choir.
As the final chapter of Dennis’ colourful life comes to an end, his memory and the countless stories will live on forever in the hearts and minds of his family and friends. We’ll miss you greatly Dennis.
The funeral was held on Monday 6 August 2007, at Margam Crematorium. Donations in lieu of flowers if so desired to Ty Olwen, c/o St James Funeral Home, 31 St James Gardens, Uplands, Swansea SA1 6 DT. Telephone 01792 643840.