Kenneth Gene Ownby

May 29, 1938 - September 9, 2021
Kenneth Gene Ownby

Kenneth Gene Ownby – sunrise May 29, 1938 – Sunset September 9, 2021.

Gene departed from this earthly world on September 9, 2021 surrounded by his loving family. His daughter, Lisa Ownby and best friend, and son-in-law Matt Connolly, survive him, as well as his grandchildren Marshall, Briar, Oakley and Townsend Ownby-Connolly, and siblings Edward Ownby, and Floann Myers (Clark Myers). He is preceded in death by his parents, Velma Irene Tipton and Marshall Frantz Ownby, son David Eugene Ownby and former wife, but forever friend, Margaret Hackworth Ownby and brother, Hugh Dott Ownby.

Born and raised in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Gene graduated from Townsend High School in 1956, serving as class president his junior and senior years. Upon graduation he joined the U.S. Navy after serving in the reserves while in high school. After his honorable discharge he completed airline school in Kansas City, moving to Washington D.C. in 1959, where he began his 43-year career with the airline industry working for National, Pam Am and Delta Airlines, where his daily interactions were with members of Congress, Hollywood stars and many a businessman.  Some of his favorite passengers who knew him by name were: Sam Donaldson; Tom Brokaw, Jimmy Dean, Geraldo Rivera; Dan Rather; Bob Dole; Bobby, Teddy, Jack and Jackie Kennedy; Ted Kopple; Jimmy Stewart; Jane Polly; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Maria Shriver; Katie Couric; Linda Carter; Maury Povich; and so many more. He also studied at American University and University of Virginia.

His marriage in 1964 to Margaret gifted him with the birth of Lisa and David. Raising them and being their father was his most valued job, second only to being a doting grandfather. He moved from the D.C. area to Williamsburg in 2014 so that he could attend sporting, theatrical, musical and all school events of his grandchildren. Nothing gave him more joy than to cook and shop for his grandchildren and share stories of his youth in the Smoky Mountains. He was also a devoted fan of Lafayette High School football.

Gene Ownby was as honest as the day is long, had a sense of humor and kindness that was unparalleled, he was salt of the earth, the real deal, and he was so very much loved by his family and friends.  Returning to his Tennessee roots, a graveside service and burial will take place in Townsend, Tennessee where he will be singing Rocky Top, eternally…. Rocky Top You’ll Always Be, Home Sweet Home to Me, Good Old Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee.

Friends and Family will be received at Smith Funeral Home, 1402 Tuckaleechee Pike Maryville, Tennessee 37803 September 17, 2021 from 10 am to 12 pm followed by a graveside service and burial at 1:00 pm at Bethel Baptist Church 123 Bethel Church Road Townsend, TN 37882. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to Child Development Resources, 150 Point O’ Woods, Williamsburg, VA 23188,  A celebration of life will be held in person and live streamed at King of Glory Lutheran Church, October 9 at 10 am, 4897 Longhill Road Williamsburg, VA 23188, Online condolences can be shared at

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  • September 11, 2021
    Elizabeth Munsey says:
    There are so many wonderful memories of Gene that I will aleayd cherish. As my brother- in-law you have been in my life for over 60 years. You and Margaret, Dick and me and our children had so many fun times over the years. I will aleays remembef our last conversstion. You were so happy and ready to join all of your family and friends who have gone on before you. You will certainly be missed here.

  • September 13, 2021
    Trish Tipton Fogarty says:
    Deepest condolences to your family and friends. You were a very special man who impacted many in such positive ways. You will be greatly missed by all who knew you.

  • September 13, 2021
    Danielle Kauffman says:
    I have many fond memories of Gene, especially when we worked at Washington National Airport (DCA) during the Pan American Airline years. He was one of the most friendly and recognized faces who most often greeted the passengers departing at the Pan Am gates. He was my coworker and became such a good friend to me and many others over the years, right into his retirement. We had fun working hard together but it was really a joy to see him in action as he enjoyed his job with people. He had a natural charm, always a gentleman, compassionate, reliable as he daily greeted and boarded the general public, notable journalists, business people, celebrities, politicians, and all the flight crew and airline staff. He treated everyone with kindness and had a special gift in talking to anyone. His favorite place at the airport was the gates and he did his best work there. You were happy to be working next to him and many regular business, government, news or airline folks would come by to see him, maybe sharing a sports tip or seeking some kind of advice or assistance. He was my friend and hero who helped me get my feet back on the ground after Pan Am folded. We had the best time driving from the West Coast to Virginia with a stop to see his neck of the woods in Tennessee and my first visit to see the Smoky Mountains. Most importantly, I saw that he was a devoted Father for both his son, David and daughter, Lisa. We kept in touch over the years and I saw him as a happy and proud Father when Lisa married Matt and a real proud Grandpa talking about each of his grandchildren's achievements. He loved his family and his Tennessee roots. It was always great to just pick up the phone and catch up or just shoot the breeze. I was lucky to have had one last afternoon to hold his hand and talk with him and his family. I miss my dear friend, and I know he is missed by all that knew him. My deepest condolences to Gene's family.

  • September 13, 2021
    Lisa Wolfe says:
    Mr Ownby was a wonderful, kind and gentle man. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  • September 14, 2021
    Bonnie Bufano lit a candle:
    Lit since September 14, 2021 at 9:27:15 AM