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Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace; times of plenty and times of want, Edith Owen lived her life making a difference in the hearts of those she loved, and an impact in the lives of the countless children she taught. Edith sacrificed much in her lifetime, yet she lived fully and completely at every opportunity. For these things and so much more, she will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.
Edith’s story began at a time of great change in the U.S. Jazz music blossomed, and the flapper redefined modern womanhood. The year 1923 marked many firsts in American culture as the Walt Disney Company was founded, insulin became available for diabetics, and a vaccine for the whooping cough was developed. When the eight-hour workday was established that very year, manufacturing boomed. In the riverfront city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Edith Marie Cramer made her way into the world on July 18, 1923. A most welcome addition in the lives of her family, Edith was the youngest of eight children born to her parents, Harry A. and Lillie (Boucher) Cramer.
A chubby-cheeked little girl with the cutest dimples, Edith was raised on the family farm in Alto, Michigan where she experienced the adventures of childhood. Like most little girls, she enjoyed playing with dolls, and she loved beets! Affectionately referred to as “Pinky” by her siblings, Edith was nevertheless doted on by them. This was especially so when, at the age of two, she survived Typhoid fever and pneumonia several times. From a young age her mother taught her to sew. Edith came to be quite a talented seamstress, making most of her own clothes along with sharing in the household responsibilities. The Great Depression cast a shadow of economic hardship for all, and Edith’s family was no exception. Even so, they remained thankful for the blessings that came their way.
Edith attended a one-room schoolhouse until the eighth grade. She excelled in her studies and absolutely loved school. Even though it was a long walk from home, Edith never wanted to miss school whether she was ill or not. English was her favorite subject, and from her earliest years and throughout her long life, Edith was excessively dedicated to her schooling and education in general. At the age of 16, she held the honor of having been Salutatorian of her graduating class. She received an academic scholarship to attend Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in English and minored in French. Her family believed in her so much that her brothers and sisters even pooled their money to help Edith with her college expenses and gas money. It certainly paid off when she graduated with a BA in Education from Western. Landing her first teaching job for $60 a week at Manton High School, Edith was only a year older than many of her students! She then began teaching in Freeport during World War II, remaining there for three years serving as the school principal and as an English teacher.
It was later in life when Edith met the gentleman who won her heart. Arthur Vargo was a chiropractor in Hastings, Michigan, and after dating for two years, the couple married on June 7, 1952, just shy of Edith’s 29th birthday on the family farm in Wayland, Michigan. They settled in Hastings and before long welcomed the blessing of three children with the births of William Edward, Jack Arthur, and Janna Marie. Edith’s husband was originally from Detroit and it was always a fun-filled time when they visited his family as they loved attending Tiger's games when there. Sadly, Edith’s beloved Arthur passed away suddenly of a heart attack on September 11, 1958 when their youngest child, Janna was merely six months old.
Left to raise and support her three little ones alone, Edith moved her family to Grand Rapids to be closer to family. She applied for a teaching position at Grand Rapids Public Schools in order to complete a mortgage application, and although she substituted for a while, it was clear she needed to be home with her children. After purchasing her home, Edith began a daycare in her house to support her family. In 1967 when her children were older, Edith returned to full-time teaching, taking a job at Kenowa Hills Middle School as a seventh grade English teacher. Edith’s own education remained a big part of her heart. She began taking night classes towards her MA, and for two summers, she moved her family to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan where she eventually went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Education.
Having her summers free had its advantages. Edith loved spending this time with her children and took the opportunity to travel with her children, and they did so extensively. They traveled in every direction, visiting all 50 states, every province of Canada, and Newfoundland. They visited all the national parks, landmarks, and other popular sights, too. During every spring and Christmas break they headed to Florida, even packing a fresh Michigan Christmas tree in the trunk to enjoy during the Christmas holiday while there.
Edith’s family was her pride and joy. When her children were young she loved to sew and made their school clothes and a variety of Halloween costumes. In her free time she enjoyed playing cards, cribbage, 500, canasta, and war. She also participated on several bowling leagues. Some of her favorite pastimes included mushrooming where she had her secret spots, rock hunting, and traveling to Brown County, Indiana for geodes, a hallow rock with crystals inside. She loved Petoskey, Lake Superior, and enjoyable times spent at their cottage. When Edith was 63, she threw herself a “Surprise Retirement Party”. Her family didn't know her plans, so it was actually their surprise to learn she did so to become a “stay at home grandma”. A top-notch grandmother in every sense, Edith’s grandchildren brightened her days like rays of sunshine.
Love was not lost for Edith. After “sneaking around for nine months”, Edith married Arthur Owen in March of 2000 at the cottage on Lilley Lake. Arthur, also widowed, met Edith while she was at the cottage on her many walks around the area for her health and rehabilitation. Arthur kept offering her rides, so one day she invited him to walk with her. They enjoyed a memorable honeymoon to Alaska, and her marriage to Arthur was just what Edith needed. After 40 years of being single, struggling with a series of health problems and near death, Arthur brought Edith back to life. The couple enjoyed ten wonderful years together before Arthur passed away.
Ever dedicated to education, Edith Owen made a difference in the lives of many teaching. She gave from the heart, and sacrificed much throughout her life for the benefit of those she loved. Edith persevered through hard times yet remained positive and worked hard to make a good life for herself and her family. She was intuitive by nature, and was a wonderful confidant in many respects. Her family brought her the greatest joy, and in Edith they found a fine example to live by. As her legacy continues, the very heart of Edith lives on in those she touched with ways all her own.
Mrs. Edith Owen, age 93, of Grand Rapids, passed away on May 30, 2017. She was preceded in death by her husbands; Arthur Vargo and Arthur Owen; son, Jack Vargo; and was the last of the Cramer girls. Edith is survived by her children, Janna (Kevin Swanson) Falicki and William Vargo; daughter-in-law, Candace Vargo; grandchildren, Kristin (Lance) Appleby, Jennifer (Andy) Koopman, John Falicki, Rob (Katie) Vargo, Stephen (Andrea) Vargo, Anne Vargo, Michelle Vargo, and Marissa Vargo; five great-grandchildren; many nieces and nephews. Edith’s family will receive visitors from 6-8 PM on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. A graveside service will take place at 2:30 PM on Friday, June 2, 2017 at Rosedale Memorial Park. A time for food and remembrance will be held after the graveside service, all are encouraged to attend. Contributions in her memory may be made to Emmanuel Hospice. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a favorite memory or photo of Edith and to sign her online guestbook.