Family hid sassy message on dad’s headstone. It’s causing a stir at Iowa cemetery

Lindsay Owens/Lindsay Owens

Steven Owens was a man who meant no harm when he told people to “F--- off.”

“He was easily fired up, but it was kind of a playful thing,” his son, Zachary Owens, told McClatchy News.

It was this sassy yet endearing spirit that the Owens children tried to capture on their father’s headstone after he died at the age of 59 in September.

“Forever in our hearts.

Until we meet again.

Cherished memories.

Known as.

Our son, brother.

Father, Papa, Uncle.

Friend & cousin,” reads the headstone, which marks Steven Owens’ grave at Powers-Warren Cemetery in Runnells, Iowa, which is about 20 miles southeast of Des Moines.

A casual passerby might not notice anything out of the ordinary on the headstone, but on closer inspection, one can see that, when reading downward, the first letter of each phrase spells out “F--- off.”

When managers at the cemetery saw a drawing of the design, they took issue with it, Steven Owens’ daughter, Lindsay Owens, told McClatchy News. But the company that made the headstone, Wittenbeck Memorial in Ankeny, told the cemetery that unless a court injunction was issued to prevent them from putting it in, they would go forward with the installation.

A phone number for Powers-Warren Cemetery could not be found. A message left at Runnells City Hall by McClatchy News was not returned. Wittenbeck Memorial did not return a request for comment.

Lindsay Owens said that since the headstone was installed over two weeks ago, one person has submitted an anonymous complaint to a local news outlet.

“It’s not anybody’s business,” she said. “If you don’t like it, walk away.”

Lindsay Owens said her dad, who was a fun-loving father and grandfather, wouldn’t have wanted all this trouble.

“That’s not who he was,” she said. “He didn’t care what anybody thought.”

Steven Owens, who worked in the printing industry, was often captured flashing a peace sign in photos and dancing with his granddaughter — even though he was a “bad dancer,” his son said.

“He was a happy guy,” Zachary Owens said. “He liked to have fun.”

The Owens children said the issue must now be worked out between the cemetery and Wittenbeck Memorial, but they hope their father’s headstone won’t have to be removed or changed.

“I don’t believe it really affects anyone else,” Zachary Owens said. “There are very few people that will really come across it. And the people that know what it means, it means something to them for a reason. Any random passerby shouldn’t notice it. It’s meant for the family, and it’s our way of honoring our father.”

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