Pursuing his dreams took Sean Owens far away from Spokane. Living his dreams brought him back.
“The entire focus of my life was to become a pilot in the military,” Sean says, noting childhood photos frequently show him dressed in oversized fatigues. “That’s all I could think about.”
Owens graduated from Central Valley High School in 1987 and attended Washington State University for a year before earning a coveted spot at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. After nine years as a Navy pilot, he took a job with Cathay Pacific Airways, a Hong Kong-based airline. He and his family lived in Tennessee, and he commuted to Chicago.
Two years ago, he began flying to Hong Kong out of Los Angeles and moved his family to the Spokane area. Once here, he made use of the master’s in business and finance he earned early in his naval career, taking over the downtown Avis agency last year. He can be found there weekdays when he isn’t on a four-day trip.
“I enjoy flying. I love the lifestyle,” Owens says. “But there was something missing, and it was business.”
Spokane made it possible for him to work in the two fields he loves, he says. “We could stay here forever.” It also gave Owens and his family an affordable lifestyle, where they could own enough land to keep their five horses.
Why did you leave Spokane?
“I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and stay here,” says Sean, who says he set his sights on flying military planes at the age of 10. “I knew it would be an amazing feeling to be up there among the clouds.”
Sean credits intense focus and his atypical appointment to the Naval Academy during his freshman college year with helping him reach his goals.
“It was a fantastic experience, but not because it was necessarily fun,” he says of his academy years. “It really restructures how you think and analyze problems.”
Why did you come back?
“I love Spokane,” he says. “It has all the amenities of a big city – great theater, good concerts. And there’s virtually no traffic.”
Owens’ list of Spokane’s assets is long. His parents and eight of his 10 siblings still live here. Plentiful and inexpensive ski resorts make for a frequent family getaway. It’s also an affordable city in a state with no income tax.
“And we’re four-season people,” he says.
Sean, his wife, Teresa, and their two children, Logan, 11, and Ashton, 9, live in a log home on 11 acres near Elk on the side of Bare Mountain, so named after a fire cleared out most of the trees. The family remodeled a shop on the property, building stalls for their four walking and one quarter horses.
The home “has really cool woodwork and a massive stone fireplace,” Sean says. “It’s really very stunning.”
Teresa and Sean say their children have helped them meet new people and forge friendships. Both kids are active in sports, and Sean and Logan played in Hoopfest.
Teresa works as a substitute teacher in the Riverside School District, where their children attend school. They get together at least once a month with Sean’s family to catch up and celebrate birthdays. Teresa’s parents spend their summers at Wolf Lodge Bay.
What’s the biggest change in the community?
“It’s a completely different city,” he says, noting that a key high-school pastime in the late 1980s was cruising Riverside Avenue. “It has a much healthier downtown with staying power.”
When Teresa and her husband visited before, often on Christmas holidays, the East Coast girl came away uninspired by the dreary brown of the winter landscape.
“It’s an amazing transformation,” Owens says, and his wife agrees.
“I love where we live now,” Teresa says.
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