Longtime Resident Is Now Returning The Favor

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Married to a man who did surveying work for roads around the Southwest at the turn of the last century, Sue Owen made her home in a great many places before she settled in Payson.

Her husband, Robert, who worked for the Bureau of Public Roads, first came to Payson in January 1951. At the time they had a home in Williams and two children. The couple had four children, Melodye, Johnny, Bobby and Billy. Melodye and Bobby still live in Payson. Billy makes his home in Chandler and Johnny was killed in Vietnam.

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Sue Owen and her family were welcomed to Payson with open arms when they first moved to the community in 1951.

When the children were finished with school for the summer, the whole family moved to Payson.

"Payson welcomed us with open arms. I think it was because the bureau had a good reputation," she said.

Their first home was a rental on Frontier; later -- in 1953 -- they traded a camping trailer and truck as a down payment on an unfinished house and nearly three acres on Bonita Street and made payments of $50 per month. At the time, Bonita Street was just a dirt lane, with deep ruts, surrounded by woods.

"It was so wooded one of my boys told me he was afraid a bear would get him (walking to and from school). I said if I'd known he was afraid I would have driven him to school."

The trailer and truck Sue and Robert traded for their home and land had served as a residence for a while, too. "For two two years we had a picnic everyday."

She home-schooled their children, even teaching them in a tent at Hannagan Meadow.

Even after settling in Payson the Owen family liked to travel.

"Every weekend we'd load up the Jeep with a Dutch oven and a sack of potatoes. At each crossroad, we would take a vote on which way to go. We saw almost all of Arizona that way."

They also liked to fish, in spite of a near-tragedy that befell them only a couple of weeks after arriving in Payson.

"We went up on the Rim to go trout fishing when the season opened. The baby, Johnny, was only a little over two."

Her other child needed her, so she left the baby on a pallet, and went just a few feet to check on the problem. The baby went looking for her and wandered off.

"He was lost overnight and everyone came to help look for him. About 3 a.m. we stopped, except for Norman Winters, who got on a horse and continued searching. He found Johnny asleep, covered with pine needles. We think a bear covered him up. It was about 32 degrees that night. He had crawled two miles. He was fine though. He ate six eggs for breakfast."

Johnny Owen was killed in Vietnam in 1971. Once again, much of Payson came to the family's assistance.

"We fed 75 people with an abundance of food everyone brought and filled the deep-freeze with leftovers."

Over the years, Sue and Robert have given back to the community in a number of ways. Sue has been teaching vacation Bible school and Sunday school almost from the time she first came to the community.

"I'm teaching a third generation now. My little toddlers are the grandchildren of the children I first taught here."

She first taught at the First Baptist Church on Main Street and was active in the church for 10 years and then went to the Payson Assembly of God Church when it organized.

Later Sue and Robert sold part of their property to the Northern Gila County Genealogical Society for its library.

Sue was at the society's first meeting, which was held at the Payson Womans Club.

She was also among the earliest employees at Valley National Bank with Vera Haught, Anna Mae Deming, and Var Blake, who was the manager, and worked there for 19 years. She started as a janitor, moved into filing, became a teller and also worked as a bookkeeper and new accounts clerk.

"I had the flu and couldn't go into work. My husband called in for me, but there were no replacements, so he quit for me."

When Sue was stopped working -- thanks to her husband's telephone call -- she became more active with the Payson Assembly of God Church. She served as its missionary president and organized a quilting project, one that continues to this day.

You can find some of the quilts Sue Owen and the ladies of the church have crafted at a holiday craft and bake sale, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2 and 3 at 1100 W. Lake Drive, by Green Valley Park.

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