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Thomas Clare Owen, 86, and Joan M. Owen, 89, restored the Cherry Creek Inn

Thomas Clare Owen Aug. 25, 1932 – April 8, 2019
Joan M. Owen Jan. 15, 1930 – April 18, 2019

Taking a scenic route via country roads to their summer home in Chautauqua Institution, Thomas and Joan Owen passed an abandoned mansion outside Cherry Creek.

“We saw it behind all these trees,” said their daughter, Candace Owen-Williams. “My mother said, ‘Stop the car.’ She said, ‘It’s calling to me. We have to save this house.’ ”

It was a grand, but dilapidated, Italianate villa built in the 1860s by wealthy farmer and horseman George Nelson Frost and surrounded by a 31-acre farm. They bought it in 1989.

“They both loved to decorate – this was their thing,” their daughter said. “And with the help of this amazing crew of Amish construction people, they resurrected it to its original glory.”

The couple – who restored the house to national registry standards and opened an elegant bed and breakfast hotel in it called the Cherry Creek Inn – both died in recent weeks. Mr. Owen died April 8 and his wife died 10 days later. He was 86. She was 89.

Both were residents in recent years in Embark at Orchard Glen in Orchard Park.

Thomas Clare Owen was born in Buffalo. His father left when he was 3 and he grew up in the home of his grandfather, Ernie Clare, a prominent artist, illustrator and radio personality. His grandfather included him on his radio show and put him in theater productions he staged at St. Margaret’s Catholic Church. He spent summers at his grandfather’s cottage in Crystal Beach, Ont.

He was a member of the first class to graduate from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute’s new school on Kenmore Avenue in 1950 and began attending Canisius College to study prelaw.

He left, however, in the early days of the Korean War to join with friends from St. Joseph’s in enlisting in the Marine Corps. He served with the 1st Marine Division in Korea, then with the 2nd Marine Division in Puerto Rico and the Mediterranean, where he was among the emergency responders on the Greek island of Ithaca following the catastrophic earthquake in 1953.

Returning from service in 1954, he worked at Bell Aircraft and enrolled at the University at Buffalo, earning a bachelor’s degree. He also studied at Rochester Institute of Technology and took courses toward a master’s degree in teaching, but instead found a career in the printing industry.

Mr. Owen began in management at J. W. Clement Corp., then was a plant manager for Manhardt-Alexander in the 1980s. He went on to found his own firm, Clarence Graphics, which did book and pharmaceutical printing. After he retired, he continued to do consulting work.

He was a member of Aurora-Cazenovia Post 205, Veterans of Foreign Wars, East Aurora.

He met Joan Marion Kistner following his discharge from the Marines while he was working as a lifeguard at Sherkston Beach, Ont. She was chaperoning a group of girls from a high school sorority. They were married in 1957.

She also was born in Buffalo, the daughter of the founder of Kistner Concrete Products. She grew up in Cheektowaga and attended Mount St. Joseph Academy. As a young woman, she was a roller derby skater.

“I think she was a little bit of a rebel,” her daughter said. “She was a tough woman.”

She was a founding member of the Clarence Contemporary Club and did charity work with the organization. She chaired bloodmobile drives at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church. She also organized fashion shows for charity, featuring vintage clothing.

She created costumes and provided props for student plays at Clarence High School. She and her husband made Halloween costumes for their granddaughters and built sets and made costumes for theatrical productions at the Carlisle School in Danville, Va., where their daughter taught.

The couple sold the Cherry Creek Inn in 2005 and moved to East Aurora.

In addition to their daughter and two granddaughters, his survivors include a brother, Robert Ernst, and her survivors include two brothers, William Kistner and James Kistner.

A service for them was held April 20 in the Polish Falcon Club, 445 Columbia Blvd., Depew.

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