Bourbon County native Clay Owen, longtime Knoxville News Sentinel photographer, died suddenly of a heart attack Tuesday evening. He was 47.
Mr. Owen died at his home, the Knoxville daily paper reported Wednesday on its Web page.
Mr. Owen took to photography "like a first love" after his father gave him a camera in 1980. "When he took an interest in something, he would immediately become an expert in it," said his father, Henry Clay Owen, who retired as the University of Kentucky's treasurer about a year ago.
"We're stunned at our loss," photo chief Paul Efird said. Mr. Owen was a former director of photography at the newspaper. "It's so unexpected. Clay was in the prime of his career and very happy with life. The staff's devastated."
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Mr. Owen was drawn to feature subjects from Appalachian scenes to spelling bees. He had won a regional award from the National Press Photographers Association in the fall for a photo of a National Guard pilot greeting a young pen pal.
Mr. Owen also was an accomplished woodworker, painter and marksman. He loved early Kentucky history and participated in Revolutionary War re-enactments.
A native of Paris, Mr. Owen was a graduate of Bourbon County High School and a 1988 journalism graduate of the University of Kentucky. He had worked for the Lexington Herald-Leader on a free-lance basis before joining the Knoxville paper in 1991.
Mr. Owen is survived by his wife, Jackie; parents, Henry Clay and Betty Owen of Paris; sister, Mona Lisa Owen; and sister, Callie Renfro Owen of Arlington, Va.
Visitations will be 5-8 p.m. Saturday at the Hinton-Turner Funeral Home in Paris, and 3-7 p.m. Sunday at the Ratterman Brothers Funeral Home on Lexington Road in Louisville. The funeral will be 10 a.m. Monday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Louisville, with burial at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.