Owen Francis Terrell, 32
Block Island lost a beloved member of the community on November 1, 2021, when Owen Terrell, 32, was killed in a motorcycle accident. His family, visiting the island last week, was so comforted to hear stories from those locals who knew and loved him. Here we share a memorial, adapted from the eulogy delivered by his brother-in-law on November 10, at St. Andrew Parish Center:
Owen Francis Terrell was born on October 18, 1989 to Marilyn and Scot, the fourth of five children. Owen was the first boy after three girls, and was followed by a brother. Growing up in Northern Virginia, he went to Blessed Sacrament Catholic School for elementary and middle school, attending church at the parish and
receiving his sacraments of initiation there. From there he enrolled at Bishop O’Connell High School, where he played football, ran track, and excelled in lacrosse. He cherished his time on the beautiful grounds of the University of Virginia, from which he graduated in 2014 with a degree in Anthropology.
Owen followed a variety of paths after college, working at a men’s fashion company and then a tech startup, both in New York City. He moved to Copenhagen to help friends with an online design company, then found his way to Block Island in 2016.
Owen’s family has a connection to Block Island that goes back three generations: his grandparents Madeline and Robert Francis “Bob” Murphy (whose middle name Owen bore) bought land and built a house on Block Island in the 1950s. Owen’s mom spent her childhood summers at the cottage that became known for its distinctive color: the Pink House. His parents were married on Block Island, at St Andrew, in 1979. As a child, Owen spent many happy summer weeks on Block Island: riding bikes, boogie boarding, throwing rocks in the ocean, setting up lemonade stands to earn money for candy and fudge. As an adult, Owen came to Block Island to connect with the natural beauty of this special place, working in marinas, construction, and setting up his own clothing line that sold handmade shirts locally and online. He loved the ocean, bonfires on the beach, reading in a quiet patch of sun, making things with his hands, and most of all his family. He was creative and took pride in learning how to do a job right.
Everyone who knew Owen for even a short amount of time was sure to experience his charisma and joie de vivre. He lived each day like it was precious and the only day he was guaranteed, which of course is true for all of us. When giving us a tour of the UVA grounds during a post-Christmas family getaway to Charlottesville,
he noted with dismay that so many of his fellow students walked from place to place with their heads down in their phones; he couldn’t believe anyone would rather read a text than appreciate the splendor around them. We are gathered here on Block Island, whose scenic tranquility and loveliness have been known to the Terrell family for decades, because this is the kind of place Owen wanted to live his life, surrounded by the beauty and majesty of nature.
In reading the tributes pouring in to the online memorials created by family and friends, some words appear over and over: “energy,” “enthusiasm,” “charm”... but above all else, “love.” Owen had so much love to give, and knew instinctively how to give it. You could not be in his presence and not be cheered by him. He was voted freshman class president on no platform other than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking. (His campaign posters consisted of his initials, written on duct
tape, pasted on lockers and walls.) He was cheered for his incredible hustle by the opposing football team after a game in which he seemed to be involved in every single play. He could elicit peals of laughter from his nephews by spontaneously changing the words to their favorite stories, making sandcastles for them to smash,
or taking them down to the pond for an impromptu rock throwing competition at their aunt’s wedding.
Owen was always up for an adventure, and was the first person you’d call on if you needed someone to drop everything and come help – say, moving out of your dormitory on short notice, even if it meant driving through the night to get there, or zooming off to retrieve the marriage license you realized you left in your hotel room
when the church was already full of guests. His love of family came at an early age; even at three years old he was so protective of his older sisters that he would escort them to their parents’ room after a nightmare so they wouldn’t be alone. He was full of energy and friendly confidence - he wanted to help others have a good
time. He was charming and handsome, observant and blazingly smart, but with a silly side that made it easy to get to know him, and everyone wanted to know him.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day; in the British Commonwealth we call it Remembrance Day, and if I may, I’d like to share a verse from a poem often read on this day:
“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
As long as I’ve had the privilege to be connected to the Terrell family, I have been amazed by how close a family they are; and that closeness will be a strength for them as they remember their wonderful son and brother Owen. His passing leaves a hole that can never be filled; but as we share memories of a man who brought joy to those lucky enough to know him, my suspicion is that Owen would want us to do it with a smile, as he would have done.
Owen is survived by his parents, who live in Annandale, Va.; his grandmother Charlyne Terrell of New Oxford, Penn.; his siblings Emma Leitch (and Trevor) of Bermuda, Lucy Terrell-Lewis (and C.T.) of Long Beach, Calif., Julia Purvis (and Matthew) of Las Vegas, and James Terrell of Annandale; and his six nieces and nephews: James, Peter, and Tommy Leitch; Abigail and Cora Purvis; and Rowan Lewis. He was preceded in heaven by his grandparents Madeline (Fleming) and Robert Francis Murphy, and Roy Terrell.
Donations in Owen’s memory may be made to the Block Island Conservancy or the Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department.