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by Nancy D. Aylesworth (White)

The author was born in Appleton, WI. in January 1926. Ten years later his parents, Frederick and Adeline, packed up their four children and followed other family members west to California. Owen brought along his zither to help pass the hours. By the time the family hit the Mohave Desert, Fred had had enough of his musical son and warned that if he heard one more note out of that zither Owen would be put out of the car to brave the elements on his own. Sure enough, there was soon one more note (Owen claims his foot hit it by mistake). The car screeched to a halt, the door was flung open and he was ordered out. The automobile, a 1930 Hudson Super-8, sped out of sight as he stood in the middle of a burning desert, alone. After what must have seemed an eternity, a car approached from the distance, it was that same Hudson. It pulled over in front of our young author and without a word he jumped inside. At that moment Owen probably thought his Dad had taught him a valuable lesson about playing the zither, but in later years the subconscious lesson learned would prove to be a hallmark of his character -- always be a man of your word.

After completing his secondary education in Santa Barbara, Owen joined the war effort early on; first as a civilian overhauling aircraft engines for the Army, and then as an enlisted man with the Navy. As an Aviation Electrician's Mate 3/C he served aboard the USS Bering Strait & USS Antietam during engagements in Okinawa, Saipan & Iwo Jima, the occupation forces at Sasebo, Japan, and the independence of the Philippines. He was honorably discharged in 1947, and returned home to Santa Barbara and started a family.

After a three-year stint as a mechanic for Sears Roebuck, he received an appointment to the Santa Barbara City Fire Department. Over the next 29½ years he moved up the ranks from Hose man through Fire Alarm Operator, Engineer, and Captain to Training Officer and Acting Battalion Chief. During this time, he returned to school and earned an Associate in Science Degree in Fire Science, along with a Community College Teaching Credential. While still on the Fire Department he served as Program Coordinator and Instructor for the Fire Science Program at Santa Barbara City College. He also served as member and officer of the Santa Barbara City Employee's Association, Santa Barbara Fireman's Relief Association, the Radiological Defense Officer's Association, and many other vocational groups. Owen retired from the Department in 1979, but continued his work in 1980, developing the Firefighting Academy for female firefighters to augment the Recruit Training Course he had developed some years earlier. He has been honored with life memberships in the California Fire Chief's Association - Training Officer's Section, the California State Fireman's Association and the Santa Barbara Firefighter' s Association.

The lure of the South Pacific implanted in him during the War drew him back on numerous occasions to explore more than 18 island nations. In addition to his south sea travels Owen has ventured to 12 North American countries, two in Asia, 47 of the United States and 12 countries in Europe. Legend has it that he was almost evicted from a French hotel in 1974 when an innocent request was misconstrued as an indecent proposal. It seems he and his daughter had been traveling throughout the Continent for some weeks, relying heavily on her somewhat limited knowledge of French. After an exhausting day and a trek up five flight of stairs, Owen was disheartened to discover that the maid had forgotten to put clean linens in his room. Armed with his daughter's scribbled French on a sheet of hotel stationary, Owen bounded down the stairs and presented the note to the desk clerk. She chuckled and passed it to the matronly maid who was standing nearby. She too laughed, which prompted him to supplement the note with his best American body language. Somewhere between pointing at himself and the maid, and making walking motions with two fingers, the maid grew quite indignant, throwing the note back at him and pointing toward the stairs. Owen returned to his room (minus the towels) with a puzzled look on his face, demanding a translation. It was soon discovered that the word used for "maid" was the same word they had seen inscribed on numerous statues of Joan of Arc, who was known as the Maid of Orleans. So, instead of requesting the maid to bring clean towels he had said, "Please send a virgin up stairs and have her bring fresh linens." They moved on to the next city first thing in the morning.

Still active in community work, Owen is member of the Board and Treasurer for the Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association. For the past 15 years he has participated in the famous weekly Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show, both as an exhibitor and Advisory Committee Chairman. In addition to the book you are holding, he has also published Caleb Sheldon Aylesworth, His Descendants (1963) and Hauert Family Genealogy (1965 & 1973). When he was finishing typing the manuscript for this book, the culmination of over 17 years research, he phoned me with a progress report. He said he wasn't quite happy with the completeness of the index, but was just too tired to redo it one more time. I reminded him of something he'd told me on innumerable occa­sions, "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right." The result was a new and revised index over 38 pages in length. (This will no doubt prompt future genealogists to nominate him to sainthood for his diligence and thoroughness.) It just goes to show that he's a man who puts action behind his words.

I first met the author over a quarter of a century ago when I was lucky enough to be born his daughter (the same one who can't speak French). He has raised me and my two brothers mostly by himself and we have grown to know a man of intelligence, humor, honesty, and compassion. He's slow to pass judgment, but quick to lend a helping hand; demanding the best from others because that is what he gives of himself. Many of you know him personally, but for those who don't, I hope I've helped you learn a little bit about the chronicler of our family history.

By the way....he still has the zither, thank God Grandpa came back for him in time!

 

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