ROSEBORO — Jessie W. Owens strummed the strings of his guitar as several members of his family members listened to a few of the notes.
Along with repairing and maintaining machinery, music has been a important part of his life — one that began in the 1910s. The Roseboro resident celebrated another year with family when he turned 104 years old on Wednesday, Jan. 27.
“I’m just glad to be here,” Owens said about his recent birthday.
Owens grew up in Roseboro and as a youth, his first job was plowing on Highsmith Farm. But later, he entered the world of mechanics. He worked for the Coharie Motor Company for more than 30 years, as well as Dubose Steel and other locations.
Many years ago, he fixed a train that broke down in Roseboro. He retired about 10 years from working in the shop located behind his home and fixed anything people would bring him, including cars.
He did not receive an education beyond his middle school years, because he had to work to feed his family during the days of Jim Crow. But he became a self-taught mechanic and musician. His very first guitar, a gift from his brother, was made out of wooden shoe box. Later, he created music for The Five Minor Keys, a gospel group previously known as The Traveling Five. Their music played on the Clinton airwaves.
For more than 50 years, Owens was married to Mary Arlene Owens, before she passed away on New Year’s Day 1992. Together they had one daughter, Jessie Mae Owens; a son, Percy Owens; seven grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and 18 great-great-grandchildren.
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