Cassie Owens, a 22-year-old Craig woman and 2003 Moffat County High School graduate, died Saturday morning. Owens, a featured speaker at the Craig Relay for Life event, was diagnosed with cancer in December 2006. Her funeral is Wednesday at First Christian Church.

Courtesy Photo

Cassie Owens, a 22-year-old Craig woman and 2003 Moffat County High School graduate, died Saturday morning. Owens, a featured speaker at the Craig Relay for Life event, was diagnosed with cancer in December 2006. Her funeral is Wednesday at First Christian Church.

Bold, strong, courageous

Mourners pay respect to Cassie Owens

— The penciled sketch shows a hand, a healthy hand, reaching out to another. The fingers touch, the interlocking slight because one of them is weak with illness, revealing a love shared between two lifelong friends.

Surrounded by the image are words: Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

First Corinthians 16:13-14.

That proverb and illustration, a work completed by Dani Frederickson, paid tribute to Craig woman Cassie Owens and adorned the inside cover of a program issued to mourners Wednesday during her funeral service.

The drawing captured a moment the two friends shared during one of Owens' hospital stays. Frederickson, a Scottsbluff, Neb., resident, took a picture of her and Owens touching hands and based the drawing off it.

She was inspired. It took her five minutes.

"Love, bravery," Cassie's mother, Cyndee Owens, said of the drawing, "that really captured the whole message we wanted to get across."

More than 500 friends and family members visited First Christian Church on Wednesday morning to pay their final respects to Owens, a 22-year-old woman who succumbed to cancer during the weekend.

Every seat in the building was occupied, leaving standing room only.

The service, filled with tears and laughter, music, friends and family, Owens' favorite orange flowers and an underlying theme of love, would have been just what Cassie wanted, her mother said.

Owens, a 2003 Moffat County High School graduate and a Montana State University student for two years, was diagnosed with cancer in December 2006.

Doctors found a tumor on her liver.

She came to be a symbol in the area for bravely battling the disease and a July speech at the Craig Relay for Life event - a fundraiser benefiting the American Cancer Society - was lauded by the crowd, and raised local awareness to the need for more research into the disease.

One friend, Nicole Vorhies-Hickory, said Owens battled her illness positively and let her faith carry her. She told the crowd that people gravitated toward Owens' personality.

"Cassie was the one who made all of us smile," Vorhies-Hickory said. "She taught all of us how precious life is."

Evidence of Owens' belief that she would defeat the aggressive tumor could be found in her own writings. Number five on her top 10 list of things to do, a list recited Wednesday, reads "stop saying 'I have cancer' and start saying 'I had cancer.'"

Daniel Shaffer, who Cassie had known throughout her life and requested to conduct her funeral service, comforted the grieving. He said the struggle Cassie went through battling the illness is no more.

It has been lifted, he said.

Cassie is now healed and has "no pain, no weakness, no sorrow," and is "comforted by God himself," Shaffer said.

"He knows the deep sorrow of loss," Shaffer said during the sermon. "He understands the darkest night, the fear and desperation of separation from a child He loves. He will never pluck from us a loved one to please Himself.

"He hurts with us during our loss."

Owens was interred at Craig Cemetery. A memorial scholarship fund has been established in her name and donations may be made in care of the Bank of Colorado.

In perhaps her final message to those she leaves behind, words many used to sum up Owens were printed on the back cover of Wednesday's program, next to three photographs of her smiling.

The words were: bold, strong, courageous.

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