Meredith Dorsey Owings passed away peacefully in his sleep at his Heron Point residence in Chestertown, Md. on Wednesday, Dec. 9. He was 99 3/4. He rounded that to an even 100 and was darn proud of it. He lived his life fully, right up to the end.
Farmer, trucker, sailor and traveler, Dorsey was born on March 10, 1921 in Howard County, Md. to Alieca Willian Owings and Richard Baker Owings. He grew up on the family farm and took over its operation after his father died at a young age.
Born with a shrewd head for numbers and an entrepreneurial spirit, Dorsey eventually added a trucking company to his farming operation. That successful operation not only met the income needs for sustaining his family of six, but also satisfied his lifelong love of driving – everything from Mack tractor trailers to Jaguars, and several diesel Mercedes that he motored past the 400,000 mile mark.
When developer James Rouse offered to buy the Howard County farm for his planned city of Columbia, Md., Dorsey seized the opportunity to get back to his first love of farming. He used the proceeds to purchase several farms in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
But before he took on the task of starting his new farming operation, Dorsey bought a 40-foot sailboat named Falcon and along with his wife and four children sailed south from Annapolis for a year of cruising the Bahamas and competing in the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit. Those experiences instilled a lifelong love of sailing and adventure in Dorsey’s children. He also continued sailing for the next 40 years on the eastern seaboard, from the Bahamas north to the New England maritime.
Refreshed and rejuvenated after the Caribbean sojourn, Dorsey then threw himself tirelessly – many years with his sons at his side – into raising everything from corn, soybeans and wheat to hogs, tomatoes, spinach, and alfalfa which he dried, processed into cubes and sold to the horse-racing industry.
Nuggets of wisdom that he spouted to those working around him in the course of his sunup-to-sundown days included “Don’t throw away dirty water until you have clean,” “Never put any money in the stock market that you can’t afford to lose,” and “Nothing beats a try but a failure.”
He was a classic risk taker but hedged his bets by reading trade journals and the Wall Street Journal religiously, and then applying good sense and hard work to achieve success.
In his last years Dorsey enjoyed nothing more than driving the rural roads of Kent County and watching the annual cycle of planting, cultivating, harvesting and selling. In recent months even that became too much for the old farmer as he found himself just plain worn out, constantly tired, constantly sleeping.
Ever the pragmatist, he made his decision. “I’m just going to let things take their course,” he said recently. He stopped taking his medicine, made sure his beloved bulldog Macksie was provided for, expressed sincere gratitude to his friends and staff at Heron Point, then died in his sleep a few days later.
Dorsey is survived by a daughter, Rebecca Owings Forney and her husband, Dennis, of Lewes, Delaware; a son, Samuel Sheridan Owings, of Church Hill, Maryland; and a daughter-in-law, Gail Webb Owings of Millington. He was predeceased by a son, Richard Dorsey Owings, and a daughter, Elizabeth Howard Owings; and his first wife, Mary Frances Peach Owings, and his second wife, Margaret Blankenship Owings.
He is also survived by three granddaughters: Megan Forney McGilvray and her husband, Ross, of Epping Forest, Md. and their daughter Maisy; Meredith Forney Beach and her husband, Rob, also of Epping Forest and their children, Ford and Franny; and Sheridan Owings Banta and her husband, Sander, of Oceanside, CA. He is also survived by three grandsons: Marshall Dorsey Owings and his wife, Jaye, of Kingstown, Md, and their daughter, Neve; Casey Clinton Owings and his wife, Megan, of Millington, Md. and their children, Eleanor and Dorsey; and Samuel Adam Owings of Puerto Rico.
Services for Dorsey will be private. For those who would like to remember him in a material way, the family suggests donations to the Kent County 4-H at 709 Morgnec Road, #202, Chestertown, Md. 21620.