Owen Stanton McCoy, manager of the Chestertown farmers market, died July 5 after suffering a series of strokes. He was in home hospice, surrounded by family.
Owen was a familiar figure not just at the farmers market, which he had managed since its reorganization in the 1980s, but at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, where he could be found taking tickets for almost every concert. He was a parishioner of Old St. Paul’s church, where he served on the vestry and sang in the choir for more than 25 years. And he was one of the many volunteers with Kent County 4-H, where he was a 4-H leader for more than 20 years, teaching aspiring farmers the ins and outs of raising goats.
Born Nov. 2, 1946, Owen grew up in Primos, Pa., the son of John and Mary McCoy. After graduating from the Haverford School, where he played on the football team, he attended Cornell University. He graduated in 1969 with a degree in horticulture and entered the Peace Corps, spending several years in the village of Hojancha, Costa Rica, where he taught agricultural techniques and took part in a program to collect and hatch sea turtle eggs to help increase the numbers of the endangered turtles.
He returned to Costa Rica many times in later life, visiting friends he made during his Peace Corps service, taking family members to see this country and meet the people that meant so much to him. His daughter said he adopted the Costa Rican slogan, “pura vida,” meaning to live life to its fullest, a “pure life”. As anyone who knew him will attest, he lived up to this slogan, a life well and fully lived. His loss leaves a large hole in the community.
Owen began coming to Kent County to visit his married sister, Cindy Bankhead. Then he bought land here in 1976 and had completely moved to Kent County by the early 1980s. He owned a farm outside Rock Hall, raising goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, chicken, ducks, geese and turkeys — and a horse. He had a large orchard of various fruit trees. He grew figs and persimmons and was known as “the fig man” to many farmers market patrons where he sold his farm’s produce. He took pride in cooking with ingredients from the farm. He often brought his special home-made goat-milk fudge to parties and meetings. In addition to farming, he worked as a landscaper.
Friends remember his ready laugh and the twinkle in his eye, as well as his lifelong dedication to Philadelphia sports teams. In the latter capacity, he took his family to countless Phillies games — and was thrilled to see his Phillies win a World Series and the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory.
Owen loved music. He had a fine tenor voice and enjoyed singing – particularly Irish songs. He had a special fondness for what he called “hanged outlaw ballads,” such as “Roddy McCorley.” He also had a rich stock of Irish jokes, and his Irish heritage inspired him to learn to play the bagpipes.
He was for many years a member of Col. Leonard’s Irregulars, a band named for the road his farm was located on. Owen sang and played guitar in the group which performed regularly at the Chestertown Tea Party, and also appeared at the Mainstay, as well as performing St. Patrick’s Day concerts at Heron Point, Andy’s Bar, the Imperial Hotel, and other venues. It also formed the nucleus for a musical revue, “The Great War and the Lost Generation,” featuring songs of World War I and the Roaring 20s. The show was produced at the Prince Theater, Heron Point, and the Mainstay in the early 2000s.
Owen appeared in several productions at Church Hill Theater, playing the lead in “Damn Yankees” and adding his strong voice to other musicals including “South Pacific,” “Brigadoon,” and “Once Upon This Island.
He was also one of the founders of the “Natural Living Exchange” potluck dinner, which he attended regularly for more than 30 years — including the most recent dinner at the end of April just days before his first stroke, when many of his friends saw him for the last time.
He is survived by his daughters Danya Benton (David Benton) of Chestertown and Kailee McCoy (David Dierker) of Rock Hall; grandchildren Joshuah Tyer, Grady Dierker, and his sister Celinda Bankhead. A new baby sister for Grady and first granddaughter for Owen is expected any day now.
Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4 in St. Paul’s. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.
Contributions in his memory may be made to Kent County 4-H or to Compass Regional Hospice.
Photo Gallery byFamily and Friends
Primos Elementary School picture above – Owen McCoy 2nd row, 3rd from left in a striped shirt between two girls.
# # #
Letters to Editor
Barbara Ferris says
What a wonderful tribute to a legend in life and in our community. Play in the Heavens, Owen!
Michael H C McDowell says
Sad to hear this. We have been in Chestertown just over a year, and I enjoyed bantering with Owen and pulling his leg about Cornell, which I know. He was genial, funny, and enjoyed pulling my leg about my Ulster origins. Love the market and it will be sad not to see his positive presence. Obviously a man who led a full and meaningful life not just in this area but Costa Rica, which I did not know. RIP. Condolences to his family.
Marty Stetson says
I said this before, as a town Councilman we will miss his management of the Farmer’s Market. Personally, I will miss his wit and personally, he was a true character and a one of a kind. The world was better because he was here. I went by his location at the Farmer’s Market today and noticed the vacant slot and was reminded of his loss to everyone.
Carol Schroeder says
I knew Owen from attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with him for the past eleven years. He sang in the choir and was a stalwart member of the congregation, always willing to help do anything. He had so many fingers in so many pies in Chestertown and Rock Hall that his death is a tremendous loss to the entire comminity. Also, he greeted everyone he encountered with a kind, avuncular smile. His pictures so clearly portray his soul and if I had not known him I would have wished I had.
Condolences to his family and may he rest in peace and rise in glory as his voice fills the heavens.
Soomi Marano says
THANK YOU PETE HECK FOR THIS WONDERFUL MEMORY OF A WONDERFUL FRIEND.
j.Michael Kelly says
What a terrific article on Owen McCoy——-thank you for presenting the entire exposition of Owen’s many talents which he was only too modest to make known …………he truly was a man for all seasons all genres and a gift to all with whom he came in contact. I say this becaus I only knew him as a welcoming smile and dutiful person who was always there to help us enjoy the Mainstay. Never in a million years would I have guessed how talented and competent was this humanitarian. We will all miss him into the ages. Again thank you to this fine medium for bringing to all of us Owen’s Story.
J.Michael Kelly, Orchard Hill
Michael Harvey says
Beautiful remembrance of a wonderful man.
Susan Reinsch says
Owen was one of the first people I met around Rock Hall. He was a genuinely kind person who did so many interesting things. Truly a life well-lived. It was an honor to know him.
My sympathies to his family, and thanks for sharing their great pictures of him. This was a great article.
Kevin Gottesman says
Wonderful tribute to a fantastic human being.
I heard his beautiful voice many times with my dad’s guitar
in the Colonel Leonard’s Irregulars. Maybe they are tuning
up together again right now. The house band just got a lot
better up there. Fantastic tribute.