Richard Lee Owens Jr., a musician and lifelong resident of Montclair, died on Dec. 25, 2020. He was 90.
Mr. Owens was born in 1930 in Montclair to Richard Lee Owens Sr. and Martha Johns Owens.
He embraced music at an early age and mastered the piano, with a keen sense of playing by ear. In the 1950s, he performed with his band at various establishments in the Essex County area; he liked stride piano style, and always opened his performances with a medley of Erroll Garner, Duke Ellington and Count Basie tunes.
His favorite song was “How High the Moon,” and he performed with exaggeration slightly behind the beat in Erroll Garner’s personification.
Early in life Mr. Owens attended St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. His religious beliefs led him to gospel music, and he played for various churches – Rising Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Bright Hope Missionary Baptist Church, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Macedonia Baptist Church (Newark) and Union Baptist Church (Bloomfield).
He loved traditional gospel music and often played songs like “He Will Remember Me,” “Because He Lives” and “At the Cross” with heart and soul. He was also employed as an organist for many years by Martin’s Home for Service.
Mr. Owens retired from the Montclair public schools system, where he was head custodian for many years.
He is survived by his daughter, Shawn Hamer Knight (Troy); his grandsons, Rashon Hamer and Amir Hamer; his granddaughters, Ciara and Candace Knight; his great-grandson, Rashon, Jr.; his sister, Myrna Owens Hinton; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, family and friends, and a special friend, Helen Mauro.
Mr. Owens was predeceased by his parents and his son, Richard Lee Owens III.
Arrangements were by Martin’s Home for Service.