Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Owen figure-skating family
Guy Owen initially competed in the men's individual figure skating event, winning the1929 Canadian junior men's singles championship. He went on to specialize in the "Fours Event" with great success. For five straight years between 1933 and 1937, Owen and his skating partners Margaret Davis , Prudence Holbrook , and Melville Rogers won the Fours Event at the Canadian National Figure Skating Championships plus they also captured the bi-annual North American Figure Skating Championship three successive times in 1933, 1935, and 1937.
In 1938 Guy Owen married Maribel Vinson, the nine-time United States ladies figure skating champion and settled in Berkeley, California. They had two daughters, Maribel Yerxa Owen (born 1940) and Laurence Richon Owen (born 1944).
Guy and Maribel Owens turned professional, earning a living as performers with ice skating shows such as the International Ice Skate Revue before setting up their own show.
Guy Owen was only 41 years old when he passed away unexpectedly in 1952.
Maribel Vinson was the daughter of Thomas and Gertrude Vinson of Winchester, Massachusetts. A good student, she studied at Radcliffe College while pursuing an interest in ice skating. In the ten years between 1928 and 1937, Maribel Vinson won the Women's Singles title at the ladies U. S. Figure Skating Championship every year except for 1934. During this stretch, she also teamed up with Thornton L. Coolidge to win the United States Pairs championship in 1928 and 1929 then in 1933 she partnered with George E.B. Hill to win the U.S. Championship again followed by three more Pairs' titles in 1935, 1936, and 1937.
At the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, Maribel Vinson earned the bronze medal behind the Norweigan champion Sonja Henie and the Austrian runner up, Fritzi Burger . While still competing, in the 1930s, Maribel Vinson became the first woman sportswriter at the New York Times newspaper. Following her retirement from amateur ice skating she married Canadian skater Guy Owen with whom she toured as professionals in an ice skating review. Initially based in Berkeley, California, following the birth of their two daughters: Maribel Yerxa Owen (born 1940) and Laurence Richon Owen (born 1944), she returned to the rink as an ice-skating coach.
In 1952 Maribel Vinson-Owen's husband died unexpectedly and the 41-year-old widow was left to raise their young daughters alone. Living in her native Winchester, Massachusetts, she earned a living as a figure skating instructor at rinks in the Boston area. Her daughters developed a love for ice skating and she trained them in the sport. A master instructor, Maribel Vinson-Owen coached Tenley Albright to five U.S. titles and then to the first Olympic Games gold medal for an American in Ladies figure skating. She also taught Frank Carroll who himself went on to be one of America's top skating instructors.
During her lifetime, Vinson-Owen authored several books on her sport:
- Primer of Figure Skating - McGraw-Hill/Whittlesey House (1938)
- Advanced Figure Skating - McGraw-Hill/Whittlesey House (1940)
- The Fun of Figure Skating - Harper & Brothers (1960)
In 1961, her daughter and namesake, Maribel, won the United States figure skating Pairs title with partner Dudley S. Richards . These national championships were broadcast on television for the first time. In that same competition, her younger daughter, 16-year-old Laurence, won the ladies Singles championship and because of the television exposure the Owen family became instant celebrities.
As a coach, Maribel Vinson-Owen was part of the United States team scheduled to compete in the 1961 World Ice Skating Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia . With her daughters' winning championships, they too were part of the American team that boarded the Sabena Belgian Airlines flight at New York City's Idlewild International Airport bound for the World Championships in Prague. Sabena's overnight Flight 548 had a stopover scheduled for Brussels, Belgium and on its arrival in the morning of February 16, 1961 the captain had to abort the approach and circle around for a second attempt to land on a different runway. The Boeing 707 never made it back to the airport, instead, it plunged into the wooded farmland of the village of Berg, Belgium taking the lives of all 72 passengers and crew plus a farmer at work in his fields. The entire 18 members of the American figure skating team plus 16 of their relatives, friends, and coaches, were among the dead.
The 1961 World Championships at Prague were cancelled. The remains of Maribel Vinson-Owen and her daughters were brought home for interment in the Story Chapel Columbarium at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1976, Maribel Vinson Owen was posthumously named to the U. S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame and was inducted a second time in 1994 with George E.B. Hill in the Pairs category.
In Winchester, Massachusetts, the Vinson-Owen school was named in her honor.
Maribel Yerxa Owen
The first child of Guy Owen and Maribel Vinson, she was named for her mother. From a young age she began skating in the Pairs competition. Under her mother's tutelage, in 1956 at age 15, she and her partner won the National Junior Pairs title following which she appeared as a featured performer in the highly successful Boston Skating Club's "Ice Chips" show.
A student at Boston University, Maribel Owen majored in sociology and anthropology while continuing to participate in competitive ice skating. With partner Dudley S. Richards , she was a member of the 1960 United States Olympic team at Squaw Valley, California. The following year she and Richards won the U.S. Pairs figure skating national championship at Colorado Springs, Colorado and as a result they were part of the American team that was scheduled to compete in the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Maribel Y. Owen was 20 years old when, along with the rest of the U.S. skating team, she died with her sister and mother in the airplane crash near Brussels, Belgium while on their way to Prague.
She is interred next to her mother and sister in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Laurence Richon Owen
The second child of Guy Owen and Maribel Vinson was an all-around athlete who participated in several sports but at an early age showed all the signs of becoming a great skating champion. Coached by her mother, she was 15 years old when she earned a birth on the U.S. Olympic team, finishing in 6th place at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. In January of the following year, Laurence Owen won the U.S. figure skating championship and then captured the North American title a few weeks later. That week, she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine with a feature story that called her "America's most exciting girl skater."
As a result of her championships, Laurence Owen was a member of the American team that was scheduled to compete in the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She was 16 years old when, along with the rest of the U.S. skating team, she died with her sister and mother in the airplane crash near Brussels, Belgium while on their way to Prague.
Laurence Owen is interred next to her mother and sister in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In her book on figure skating skating, Debbi Wilkes , a Canadian Hall of Fame skater and coach who watched Laurence Owen win her title, wrote:
- "Laurence was wonderful. She had a fresh, wholesome look, but didn't fit into any mold. She was carefree and joyous on the ice. She had wonderful rosy cheeks, beautiful big eyes and a short shag haircut that feathered over her face and fluttered when she skated. I was totally enchanted by her."
Laurence Owen planned to attend her mother's alma mater, Radcliffe College, with a view to eventually becoming a writer. Following her death, at her High School in Winchester, Massachusetts, Laurie Owen's English teacher read a poem to her classmates that Laurie had recently written. The poem ended with these words:
- Gloom is but a shadow of the night, long past;
- Hope is the light,
- The radiance.
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