Meet the metro Detroit couple planning a massive reunion & memorial in Ohio for the solar eclipse

Posted at 6:30 AM, Apr 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-04 08:19:23-04

We're just a few days away from the total solar eclipse, and many Michiganders will be heading to Ohio or other areas to find their spot in the path of totality.

We posted a callout on the WXYZ Facebook page to see if people are traveling, and we got hundreds of responses.

One woman, Cheri Roman, wrote about a family reunion of sorts. That sounded intriguing to me, so I reached out to her, and she put me in touch with "party planning central" – which involved her mom and step-dad in Shelby Township. What they're planning is pretty epic.

Jim Owen and his wife, Nicki, dreamed of having a watch party after viewing the last solar eclipse in 2017.

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"It's just it gets so dark, and everything just stops. And then like when we were in Kentucky and the light, it was back. Everybody's applauding," Nicki said.

"It's awesome. Just awesome. And on the way home, I said, 'you know, we gotta see when the next one is, you know.' And got home and checked and it was through Elmore, Ohio, where I was born and raised," Jim said. "And I said, 'Man, we gotta have a party.'"

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Last fall, Jim rented a cabin for April 8 in his birthplace of Elmore and decided to invite his wife's kids and his kids, who've never really met, and then decided to also invite his old friends from Elmore.

"One morning I was laying in bed thinking about it, and I thought, you know, we never did anything for my mother when she died at 98. But I think 13 years ago, it's been," he said.

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His mom was a nurse at the small town's doctor's office, so most everybody knew her.

Jim has now dubbed the event the "Sara Grace Solar Memorial."

"We're not going to have one minute of silence. We're going to have three minutes of darkness," Jim said.

However, it won't be a solemn occasion. Jim has a midnight-colored costume and there are sunflower centerpieces that Nicki created.

He even has arts and crafts for the kids to make their own viewing boxes.

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Jim has spent every day for the last four months organizing this party.

"You have watched the planning process unfold," I said to Nicki.

"Have I ever!" she said.

"Have you had it up to here with talk of the eclipse?" I asked.

"Let's do this, Lord! No clouds, let this happen," she said.

Nothing can dim Jim's enthusiasm for the event.

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“Instead of lighters when it gets dark you have?” I asked.

"If it gets too dark and people don’t know where I am, I can holler and just either go like that," Jim said, holding up a lighted thumb. “Or I can go like that and say, ‘Here I am folks. This is me!'"

 When the sun starts to hide behind the moon on Monday afternoon and all the filters and protective eyewear are front and center, Jim and Nicki's much-anticipated celestial celebration will be fully realized.

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I asked Jim what he thinks he'll appreciate most out of the entire experience, and he said seeing all the people, some he said he hasn't seen in 70 years.

When the eclipse wraps up, not only will the Owens have bonded with family and friends, they will also have paid tribute to a beloved mother.

Jim said he invited more than 130 people, but with the RSVPs, they expect to have about 80 people total.