Have You Met?

Colorado certainly has been lucky in the “First Lady” department. Think: Ann Love, Dottie Lamm, Bea Romer, Jeannie Ritter and – the resilient, invincible Frances Owens!

The immensely popular, highly respected and admired First Lady (meet her and you’ll see why) was once referred to as the most powerful person in Colorado. The kind and humble Frances would only want to be known for her influence in helping people live healthy, productive lives.

Frances performed her high profile job as First Lady of Colorado with class and dignity for 8 years. Mrs. Owens stood out as a community leader who gladly volunteered her time and energy for many charitable organizations and projects throughout the State of Colorado. To name a few: Anchor Center for the Blind, Developmental Pathways, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Samaritan’s Purse-Operation Christmas Child, The Children’s Hospital, the Colorado Historical Society, the Colorado Autism Society, Women’s heart health, Habitat for Humanity, as well as Denver Health’s Newborns in Need. The former first lady chaired the Colorado Commemorative Quarter Advisory Commission for Colorado’s quarter which was released in the summer of 2006.

When Frances W. Owens became First Lady of Colorado on January 12, 1999, she immediately made serving people in need her first priority. Frances served as Honorary Chair for Early Intervention Awareness Day for eight years. She continues to champion efforts to encourage early intervention for children with developmental disabilities. Frances has been actively involved with literacy and children’s programs throughout Colorado.

For six years, Mrs. Owens oversaw the privately funded long-term project of renovating and restoring the Governor’s Executive Residence which was originally constructed in 1908. Extensive renovations of the carriage house and lower gardens were completed in 2005.

Frances didn’t just fall into the political spotlight when she became our First Lady, Mrs. Owens is a seasoned veteran of political campaigns, beginning her career campaigning for former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong in the late 1970’s, as well as serving on Senator Armstrong’s House and Senate staffs. She also served as Associate Director of the Colorado Council on Economic Education.

For the past year, Frances has unwaveringly continued to devote much of her time supporting numerous charities and bringing awareness to their cause. In 2007 she chaired Western Fantasy, the Volunteers of America’s signature fundraiser. She has also been very involved with the Developmental Pathways Client Achievement Awards, the Key to the Cure luncheon - promoting awareness of breast cancer, the Mask Project which raises funds for the Denver Hospice - and this Friday, April 11th, along with Community Leader, Gail Johnson - Frances chairs the Kempe Children’s Foundation “Happy Hour With Dana Carvey” at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House to raise funds for abused children.

Warm, compassionate and caring, - and a woman who does what she says she will do - Frances Owens has made a strong, endearing impression on all who know her. With much hope and enthusiasm for the future, Frances looks forward to challenging herself to new and greater heights. With her enchanting timeless appeal, heart of gold, and dedication to her causes, look for our fair Former First Lady to embark on several bold new journeys.

What was your favorite role as the First Lady? That’s a tough one – there were so many things to love. I loved being involved with organizations that made a difference. I loved traveling the state meeting with individuals and charities and learning more about Colorado. I loved living in the Governor’s mansion, renovating the house and restoring the grounds and Carriage House. I loved the meetings with all the Governor’s and First Ladies, especially the dinners/dances at the White House. I will probably never again experience such excitement as sitting next to the President of the United States in one of the most elegant and historic homes in the United States.

What do you see as your greatest accomplishment while you were First Lady? My greatest accomplishment was probably bringing about awareness and continued support for children with developmental disabilities as well as for literacy. The causes in Colorado are many. I tried to be involved with organizations where I could help further their needs. I think that restoring the mansion and carriage house will be something for future generations to love and share.

What would you advise a young woman interested in going into politics today? I would advise a young woman (or man) to know how they feel about your issues, to know what they believe in and to stand by those beliefs. I might not have agreed 100% with everything my husband (as an elected official) believed, but I absolutely knew where he stood because of his personal philosophy and his convictions. This is what makes a good politician.

How would you describe your life at this moment in time? At this moment, I am involved in many wonderful charities. I love giving my time to community involvement. I am also involved with some major changes in my personal life. Between the two, I put in long days and nights. I am realizing that I need to take some personal time to be sure that I can efficiently plan for my future. I am very close with my children, and I need to open up more time to continue to do things with them.

Describe a typical Saturday for you these days? My Saturdays are probably like everyone else’s. I love to sleep in. It’s always so wonderful when you know you don’t “have” to be up for something. I do the laundry, run errands, and try to work at organizing some piece of my house. If the weather is nice, I take Hannah, my Springer spaniel for a walk. If my children would like to go shopping, I am always ready to go.

Whenever we see you, you are so upbeat, positive, and cheerful - what in your view is the key to always looking and feeling happy? I never thought that I would be the First Lady of Colorado. I have been blessed with so many wonderful experiences. I enjoy being part of what makes our state such a wonderful place, not just for us, but for others coming to our state. Through my experiences, I have met incredibly good and caring people. I want to model myself like many of them. Giving of myself is a way that I can achieve this, so it’s not hard to be upbeat.

Can you share a favorite childhood memory with us? I have an older brother and sister. I used to love riding our tandem bike with my brother, who is blind. We used to go everywhere. It wasn’t until we were grown up that I told my brother, Redge, how I used to stick my legs out from the pedals and let him do all the pedaling. He is such a wonderful and special friend. But now I know why his legs are definitely the stronger ones.

What are you most passionate about? I am probably most passionate about my children. I speak with each of them several times a day. I love being with them, and helping them with whatever they need (i.e. packing, moving, driving to and from school, you know, all those fun things). I love organizing, decorating, and I feel deeply about causes that affect people.

What charitable causes are you involved in at this time? – How did you get involved? Let me start with your second question. How did I get involved? Well, it’s simple. I have very special friends who only have to ask and I will happily do what they ask. I do this because my friends have also done amazing things for me... I just finished helping with a fundraiser for Developmental Pathways – Client Achievement Awards. I am currently co-chairing The Kempe Center’s annual fundraiser. I am one of three co-chairs for the Acquisitions Committee for the Mask Project, benefiting the Denver Hospice. I am also chairing The Do at the Zoo, raising funds benefiting Asian elephants.

Who is your hero? I would have to say my brother. He was born a preemie. Back in the early 1950’s, preemies were placed in incubators with pure oxygen. For many years, the medical profession thought that these babies were blind because they were premature. But in reality, they were blinded from the pure oxygen. My brother has his law degree and practices for the state of Texas. He is an inspiration to me, never complaining.

What do you think is your greatest strength? My compassion for people

What do you think is your biggest weakness? Also, my compassion for people

How does one survive the craziness of living a very public life? First of all, I never planned too far in advance. Too many things can change. I did what I could each day as First Lady, but I was always there for my children’s activities, as well as cooking our meals and taking care of our daily needs.

What is the best advice someone ever gave you? The best advice was to be exactly who I was – and not to change to fit an image or perception.

What is the best book you have ever read? I think my favorite book is “The Persian Pickle Club”, by Sandra Dallas (a local author).

What’s your favorite magazine? I love our Colorado magazines: Colorado Expression, 5280, The Denver Magazine, Colorado Homes and Lifestyles – and I subscribe to all of them.

Is there somewhere other than Colorado you would like to live, Maybe someday? I would never move from Colorado unless my children all moved away (to the same place), then I would join them. I love Colorado – this is where my friends are and this is where my heart is.

What does the future hold for Frances Owens; what do you still want to do or accomplish? I am working on this...I would like to find a job that involves creativity as well as working with many people. I’m very organized. I just need to see where I fit after so many years of being out of the (paid) workforce.

How do you want to be remembered by future generations? As someone who cared about others. As First Lady, I felt that my “job” was to bring awareness to ideas and causes, and hopefully to change. If what each of us does in our lives can be for the betterment of someone else, then we have achieved a milestone in our lives.