A hidden message on a gravestone in Polk County, Iowa is stirring controversy after a family who lost their loved one, Steven Owens, made him an acrostic that says “f*** off.”
The adult children of the late Steven Paul “Stevie” Owens told KCCI in Des Moines it was one of their dad’s favorite phrases. He used it only as a term of endearment, they told the news outlet.
Owens died less than a year ago at age 59, and worked as a cemetery caretaker early in life, his obituary says.
The message in the Warren-Powers Cemetery is hidden in the first letter of each line of his headstone. At first glance, it appears to be a typical epitaph, but his family said it contains a bit more personality, and captures the essence of their loved one.
“Forever in our hearts, until we meet again, cherished memories, known as our brother, father, papa, uncle, friend, and cousin,” the headstone reads.
Here’s what you need to know:
Steven Owens’ Son, Zachary Owens, Said He Liked to Get His Dad ‘Riled Up’ & Using His Classic Phrase
Zachary Owens told KCCI that it was easy to get his dad “riled up” and that making him say “f*** off” was a goal in their banter.
“He’s easily riled up. It was always a goal of some sort to have him tell you to do this,” said Zachary Owens said.
Lindsay Owens, his daughter, told the news station the phrase was said lovingly.
“It was definitely his term of endearment. If he didn’t like you, he didn’t speak to you. It’s just who he was,” Lindsay Owens said.
Camp Township trustees told KCCI the phrase has no place in a cemetery.
“How would you like to have your child, spouse, mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin, your loved one or eventually you, have to be laid to rest next to that for eternity?” the cemetery trustees said in a statement to the news outlet.
Zachary Owens said they were not trying to offend anyone with the epitaph.
“No one’s forcing anyone to come out and look at it,” he told KCCI. “That’s a choice that you make. We didn’t do it to offend anyone, to make anyone mad (or) hurt anyone’s feelings. We did it because it was our father, and we love him and that’s the way we remember him.”
Owens’ Obituary Said He Left Earth to Play Yahtzee With His Mom
Owens’ obituary, too, was spiced up with some of his family’s sense of humor.
“Steven ‘Stevie’ Paul Owens, age 59, left this earth Thursday, September 2, 2021 to go play Yahtzee in Heaven with his mom,” the obituary begins.
He was born and raised in Des Moines, and his first job after high school was working as a caretaker for two cemeteries. He spent his career working in the print industry until his retirement.
It says he was a sports’ fan and coached his children on team sports.
“He enjoyed his time fishing and vacationing at Lake of the Ozarks, spending time on Danny and Wendy’s porch, and visiting with friends and family. He loved his conversation with a shot of Fireball,” the obituary says.
The condolences page drew several comments supporting Owens and his family as news of the headstone controversy spread.
“I’ve not had the honor of meeting any of you, or Stevie, however by reading his obituary and his head stone controversy I feel I’ve know him my entire life!,” one tribute reads. “For Pete sakes this world has all gone soft!! Until we meet in heaven Stevie, F@#& OFF!!!”