Sack Recalls Charlie Owenby – Brevard, NC
Last updated 1/8/2020 at 3:38pm
For many, the memories of the deceased that we hold dearest are those formed through years of friendship and special moments.
For local resident Bill Sack, that means 15 years worth of fall Friday nights spent in the press box at Brevard’s Memorial Stadium and countless others across the state alongside his lifelong friend and radio broadcast partner, Charlie Owenby.
Owenby, who passed away last month at the age of 78, was a staple in the community, serving in a variety of roles within the Transylvania County school system for 31 years, until his retirement in 1997.
Sack’s relationship with Owenby dates back to 1966, when he was a pupil in Owenby’s P.E. class.
Later, in high school, Owenby helped coach Sack on the Blue Devil track team.
After graduating, Sack and Owenby remained friends, playing rec league softball together, among other activities.
However, it was during those Friday night football broadcasts that the two developed an even closer bond.
In 2002, Sack said WSQL radio approached him and asked him to join the football radio team. While it was an honor to be offered the job, Sack said it was also a bit intimidating.
Sack had never done radio before and, for him, the thought of working alongside Owenby was like joining Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football.
“I remember thinking just what it meant to work with Charlie Owenby,” Sack said. “He was always on a pedestal above us. We all looked up to him over the years.”
That sense of working alongside somebody who he knew and admired was something Sack recalled when he took to the booth at East Henderson for the first game of his broadcasting career.
With little experience, Sack recalled Owenby bringing with him a black briefcase to the press box, which contained a stat sheet that was unlike anything he had ever seen.
That game at East proved to the first of many over the next 15 years, but Sack said he kept that stat sheet and brought it with him to every game, making some of his own notes and modifications along the way. As the voice of the Blue Devils, along with fellow broadcaster Tim Trantham, the trio traveled far and wide, going wherever Brevard played on Fridays and huddling up together in the press box.
While every game was different, there was one common factor each week – hearing Owenby congratulate the crew on their work, as only he could.
“‘A fine job,’ he would say. After every broadcast on Friday night, Charlie would say we did a fine job. That was his way. He was very quiet,” Sack said.
Aside from football, Sack said he and Owenby shared other bonds.
They both had sons that graduated together from Brevard High in 1994 and they shared a love for GTO cars, which they both owned. But on the road is where their friendship was truly forged. For 15 years, Sack said he would pick Owenby up for every Blue Devil road game.
One of the must-do items on any football Friday was to look through the prep matchups of the week and do a pick ’em contest.
Then, there were the stories and tales shared in the car over hundreds of hours on the road.
Those road trips were memorable to Sack in other ways. For instance, even as they left the friendly confines of Transylvania County, Sack said there were always people who knew Owenby wherever they would go and would often come to greet him.
“It really didn’t matter where we went,” Sack said, “Everybody knew who Charlie Owenby was. He really was a figure all over the state.”
The other fond recollection was Owenby’s voracious appetite. Sack said there were many instances were Owenby would order large platters of food and, contrary to the skepticism of Sack and Trantham, would always finish it off.
“If nothing else, Charlie was an eater,” he said. “His favorite pastime was eating.”
The relationship between the two continued to bloom on Friday nights until 2017, when Owenby’s health began to slow him down.
Sack said he did his best to assist his friend in climbing the steep stairs to the press box every week, but it was apparent it was beginning to take its toll.
By the end of the season, Owenby was forced to miss the final two games in the booth.
For Sack, the absence was heartbreaking.
“With Charlie not being there, it was devastating,” he said. “It was always the three of us and he was a big part of that. We weren’t the most polished broadcasting crew, but there was a hometown feeling with the three of us.”
That season proved to be the last year Owenby or Sack was in the broadcast booth, bringing the end to an era that lasted the better part of 20 years.
Over the next few years, the two remained close. As Owenby’s health declined toward the end of his life, Sack said it was emotionally difficult.
When he visited his friend just weeks before his passing, Sack said he couldn’t help but break down in his car once he left.
He later got the opportunity to speak at Owenby’s memorial service, sharing his thoughts on more than 50 years of friendship.
In his final reflections, Sack said while he is sad that Owenby has passed away, he’s glad to have a lifetime of memories that he continues to cherish.
And while spending time together in the press box under the Friday night lights will always hold a special place in that bank of memories, Sack said, above all, it was the simple bond of friendship that he holds dearest.
“Charlie was a teacher, a coach, a teammate, a co-worker. But most of all, Charlie was my friend. I looked forward to football season because I knew I got to spend it with Charlie and it was always a special time,” he said.
(More recollections about Charlie Owenby will appear in Monday’s edition.)