University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Schoenfeld, Clay (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 49, Number 8 (May 1948)

With the alumni,   pp. 24-25


Page 24


Judge Owen Shelves
The Burdens of Law
For Art and-Nature
   UP IN north central Wisconsin
in the town of Phillips, spring is
just taking hold and incidentally
beckoning a certain county judge
to come out where he belongs. The
judge, whenever he can, answers.
   He is Asa K. Owen, naturalist,
painter, photographer, conserva-
tionist, and poet-a man who has
been immersed in* law for 47
years, but never completely nor
permanently immersed. In his little
courtroom he presides over the squab-
bles of Price County in a brisk and
businesslike way. He apparently knows
the law like his own name, but keeps
it tucked in a separate compartment.
   Born in 1878, Asa Owen graduated
from the UW in 1901 and set out to
seek, not an affluent community where
a rising lawyer might gain fame and
wealth, but a spot of beauty where he
could live with pleasure. He was first
elected county judge in 1910 and has
been that ever since. Nobody cares to
run against him, because he's doing a
good job and the election results would
be obvious anyway. Who would want
to court certain defeat at the polls?
  But the judge's conversation is as far
removed from technical "judge talk"
about Blink vs. B 1 a nk as can be
imagined. At heart, he is a naturalist
-and therefore an ardent conserva-
tionist. Few had more to do with estab-
lishing Northern Lakes Park than did
Judge Owen. No one has served on
more unpaid conservation commissions.
  Judge Owen's water colors-mostly
of wild life and forest scenes-are not
displayed ostentatiously in his court
house chambers, or even in his home.
He modestly keeps them stacked away
out of sight, but will bring them out
after some persuasion.
  If this paints a very prim and proper
picture of a sweet old man, smiling on
the world with benign tolerance-then
it's a distorted picture. Asa Owen is
not-in point of activity or vigor-an
old man. And what's more, he's been
known to raise his voice, as when
commenting on certain aspects of Wis-
consin's conservation program:
  "The state should protect the red
squirrel. Apparently they don't know
it, but the truth is that the red squirrel
has planted more pines than all the
reforesters put together. I've watched
him by the hour and I know. He knows
just when the cones are ripe. He drops
them and marks the spot where they
fall. Then he scurries down and carries
them away where he wants them.
  "Naturally he can't eat all the seeds,
and from what are left the trees will
grow, just as they have for centuries.
It's completely stupid to let red squir-
rels be shot. They're blamed for what
the grackle does-ravaging birds' nests.
I've watched that grackle, too, and I
know just how he operates. A mean
bird, that one."
  So there you have the county judge
as he lives in his trim white house
with the red blinds and the stone porch,
and looks on life, and finds it beautiful.
24
1876   .......... w
  Life and Morals by   the late S. J.
HOLMES was recently published by the
MacMillan Co. Professor Holmes was in
the zoology department at the UW from
1905 to 1912, later taught at the University
of California and was a professor emeritus
at the time of his death. The author of
many other books, his last is a study of
present economic and social problems from
the biological and scientific viewpoints.
1880 .......      .....    ....     W
  The Rev. Charles G. STERLING, son of
John Sterling who was known as the father
of the University of Wisconsin, died last
Feb. 27 in Lincoln, Neb. A graduate of
McCormick Theological -Seminary in Chi-
cago, Mr. Sterling was for many years a
missionary to the Indians.
1883 .        ..........W
  Mrs. Josephine SARLES Simpson died
last March 7 at the age of 86 in Pasadena,
Calif. A Kappa Kappa Gamma and a Phi
Beta Kappa, she was the wife of the late
Judge David F. SIMPSON of Minneapolis.
1885 .........      .......... W
  Madison newspapers headlined the death
last March 23 of Charles I. BRIGHAM,
a direct descendant of the first white settler
of Dane County. He passed away in Blue
Mounds at the age of 86 after a critical
illness lasting since Feb. 22. One of the
nation's leading agriculturists, he had long
been  identified  with  experimental and
scientific farming, new dairy methods, and
herd improvement.
1888 .........      .......... W
  Dr. E. M. POSER recently passed his
80th birthday and his 53rd year as a
Columbus physician. His three sons, John,
Edward, and Rolf, are also physicians.
1893 .........      .......... W
  Joseph E. MESSERSCHMIDT, retired
senior assistant attorney general of the
state of Wisconsin, died last Feb. 22 at
the age of 79 in a Madison hospital after
a month's illness. His widow is the former
Adeline Schlafer, '08.
1895 .....     ........... .w
  A letter from his daughter informs us
of the death last Feb. 1 of Budd FRANK-
ENFIELD after ten years of increasing
invalidism. She says, "His interest in Wis-
consin never waned although he was un-
able to take any active part for many
years."
1899 .......      .......... W
  Marcus A. JACOBSON, president of the
State Bar Assn. of Wisconsin, died last
Feb. 27 at the age of 69 in a Madison hos-
pital after a short illness. He was well-
known throughout the state for his wide-
spread law practice and his leadership in
political reform.
1901 .........      .......... W
  Walter H. BENDER was recently ap-
pointed to the board of directors of the
Marquette University Medical School
H. B. MORROW, president of the Wiscon-
sin Institute of Technology for 21 years,
died last March 10 at the age of 69 at
his home in Platteville. He had lived there
for the past 42 years.
1906 .........      .......... W
  Ralph C. ANGELL died last Feb. 24 at
his home in Port Orford, Ore., after a
three-year illness. He was 67 years old.
Mr. Angell was president of the lumber
corporation in Portland that bore his name
and also of the Beaver Mill Co. of Beaver,
Ore.
1907 .........      .......... W
  Kenneth L. M. PRAY, dean     of the
Pennsylvania School of Social Work for
the University of Pennsylvania, died last
Mar. 3 in Philadelphia at the age of 66.
He had been dean of the school for more
than six years and had long been active
in the Pennsylvania public welfare pro-
gram. He was a former president of the
National Conference of Social Work and
the American Assn. of Social Workers ...
Paul R. NEWCOMB, one of Wisconsin's
outstanding trial lawyers and a member of
Miller, Mack and Fairchild, the state's
oldest law firm, died last Feb. 27 after a
long illness. He was 64, a past president
COUNTY JUDGE. A. K. OWEN, '01
A de Auu


Go up to Top of Page