|Meet Our Donors|
In 1965 the Omaha Zoological Society was reorganized to plan construction, operate and maintain the Zoo for the city as a non-profit organization. The Society’s members felt that these changes were not only necessary, but absolutely vital to ensuring the success of their efforts and the achievement of their mission. They were confident that their visions and dreams of transforming the existing Riverview Park into a world class zoo was not only possible, it was inevitable…. and they were right! These remarkable men were all deeply committed to the improvement, enhancement and enrichment of their community, which was accomplished through their support of time, talent and resources.
One of these men was Edward F. Owen. Prior to his death in 1990, Ed was chairman emeritus and past president of the Omaha Zoological Society on which he had passionately served for over 25 years. Ed Owen led Paxton & Vierling Steel for over 52 years and under his direction, Paxton & Vierling experienced tremendous growth and success. By the end of his career, the steel executive presided over nine companies. He later created Owen Industries, a holding company, to manage those companies. But he did not rest on his business achievements. He not only changed the skyline of Omaha, but through his endless philanthropic projects, donations and dedication, he also changed Omaha and the heartlands cultural resources as well. He is remembered as a gentleman who brought enthusiasm and hard-work to every committee, board and community project that he chaired.
Mr. Owen was the primary donor and motivating force for many of the Zoo’s projects that, as Dr. Lee Simmons recalls, were started on “half in the bank and half guts.” The projects spanned 20 years and included the Owen Sea Lion Pavilion, train and railroad, Swan Valley, Diet Kitchen, Cat Complex, Nursery and Hospital, Giraffe Complex, Owen Gorilla House and Owen Orangutan House, and the Ice Cream parlor.
The family commitment to the Zoo has continued through his wife, Dee, who also shared Ed’s love and passion for the Zoo. Not only did she help the Zoo’s annual membership drive become one of the largest zoo membership drives in the country, she has also been a very valuable asset in the growth and success of the Zoo. Dee’s gifts can be seen in the Garden of the Senses, Kingdoms of the Seas Aquarium, Durham’s Bear Canyon and many others. The legacy of Ed and Dee’s leadership, care and support are evident throughout Omaha’s Zoo and the exhibits they made possible continue to be enjoyed by more than 1.3 million people that visit each year. Edward F. Owen