Gilroy – Longtime educator TJ Owens, whom friends and family described as kind and good-hearted, died Monday afternoon at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Redwood City. He was 68.
Owens fell into a coma after suffering a massive stroke early Sunday morning. The father of five grown children and grandfather of two, served on the Gilroy Unified School District board for six years and was most recently the board president.
Through tears, Alisa Owens, one of his four daughters, said her father was more than just a familiar face or avid volunteer.
"He was almost like an angel on earth and I'm not just saying that because I'm his daughter," she said. "He had a real good spirit and could make anybody feel better."
He always put others before him, was a giving person, and he didn't have enemies, she added.
But Owens wasn't only a good man, he was also a good father to his four daughters and son.
"He was about the best dad in the whole wide world," she said. "He would always give more than expected. He always looked out for the next person."
The affable Owens, who attended California State University, Fresno, on a football scholarship, often talked about the important role extracurricular activities play in a student's life. After receiving a bachelor's degree in physical education from CSU, Fresno, Owens earned a master's degree in counseling from Santa Clara University and a doctorate in community college administration from the University of San Francisco.
In 1991, he was hired as the vice president of student services at Gavilan College. He recently retired from Gavilan and was hired in April as interim athletic director at Hartnell Community College in Salinas.
Family members, friends and colleagues were stunned by the news Monday that the fit and active Owens had died.
"We're all shocked and we're certainly going to miss him," said GUSD trustee Jaime Rosso.
The last time Rosso saw Owens was at a board meeting Saturday that was attended by all seven members.
James Maxwell, who met Owens in July when interviewing for the Gilroy High School principal position, said he was immediately charmed by Owens' smile.
Maxwell said he often saw Owens at school events and noted that he always had a positive attitude, was friendly and (extremely) kind.
"Somebody said to me today 'Why does it happen to the good ones?'" said Maxwell. "It's just so horrible."
GUSD Trustee Jim Rogers said Owens was active in the national organization 100 Black Men.
"He was definitely a leader in the black community throughout Santa Clara Valley," said Rogers.
Rogers said Owens, who grew up in Barstow, came from an interesting family and that all of his siblings graduated from college.
"Education was definitely very, very high in his family's goals and objectives," he said. "It fits that he was on the school board. It just fit."
District Superintendent Edwin Diaz said he knew Owens casually during his tenure at Gavilan College but it was only during his time on the school board that he really got to know the man.
"I've really come to appreciate what a special person he really is," said Diaz. "It' s just a shock. It's just a tragedy."
Owens daughter said that many people, especially local children, looked up to her father. He helped with homework, was always volunteering and had numerous plans for helping students.
His death was unexpected and "too soon," she said. "He was too young and he just had so much more to do."
Owens is survived by his wife, Brenda Jordan Owens; daughters Alisa and Audry Owens, Annette Reavis, Milah Jordan and son, Navarro Jordan; grandsons, Sammy Reavis and Tyler Reavis; five brothers and two sisters.