As a history buff, Jeffrey Owens tends to think of historical figures as characters in a sweeping narrative.

"They're (historical figures) like characters in a novel, except that they are real and the events are real," he said. "Like characters in a novel, they have no way of knowing what part or role they are going to play in the story or how the story will end.

"I like telling history as a narrative," the Grove City resident said.

For the past three years, Owens has shared his love of history by telling some of modern history's tales through a series of programs offered at the Grove City Library.

His next program, "Lesser Known Countries of World War II," will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at the library, 3959 Broadway.

The focus will be on Yugoslavia and Poland.

"They aren't as prominent in people's minds as other countries (involved in the war), but they were important areas in World War II," Owens said.

His talks often involve detailed PowerPoint presentations.

"I do an awful lot of research before one of my programs," Owens said.

"I want to be ready for any question that might come up. Like a general preparing for a battle, I want to be ready for anything unexpected."

In 2015, Owens published "Victory in Europe: A People's History of the Second World War."

People are what makes history fascinating, Owens said.

"Too often, history in school is taught by 'coach Jones' who just has students outline chapters and memorize dates and events. That makes history boring," he said.

Owens said he believes history should be taught as a chronological narrative, always with a focus on the people involved.

"I focus on five main 'characters' in my book -- (Adolf) Hitler, (Joseph) Stalin, (Benito) Mussolini, FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and (Winston) Churchill," he said. "There are also several characters who are less well-known, but important, like Emanuel Ringelblum, who was a Polish historian. His daily journals give voluminous details about what life in the Warsaw ghetto was like.

"I try not to just tell the story about general so-and-so who ran up this hill," Owens said. "I try to place the historical figures into the real events and show them as living and breathing persons."

It was telling the story of a living person close to him -- his brother who served in Iraq in 2003-04 -- that led Owens to a passion for modern history.

"I wrote some columns about his service with the 101st Airborne for our hometown paper in Washington Court House," he said. "Then I started writing some pieces about the events that led to up to the 9/11 attacks. That all got me interested in the history of modern war -- the world wars, the Cold War and things like that."

As a boy, Owens mixed his interest in writing with a fascination with the American Revolution.

"I entered a contest in fourth and fifth grade. I wrote novels with fictional characters and put them in real battles during the Revolutionary War," he said.

He spent six years researching and writing his book on World War II.

"I love the research, because I'm always learning something new," Owens said. "One bit of research uncovers something you didn't know before and that leads you to other discoveries."

One of his conclusions from his years of research is that Hitler "at the end of the day was a product of circumstance," he said.

"He didn't have a single original idea of his own. All he spoke about were existing ideas that were already in the air in Germany. He just was able to tell those ideas with more force than anyone else," Owens said.

Roosevelt and Churchill "are probably my favorite 'co-characters,' " Owens said.

"They worked together as a team for the good to win the war. Stalin was also part of that team, but not toward entirely good purposes," he said.

The history programs presented at the library are alternately presented by Owens and retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Stephen Walter. Walter began offering presentations at the library in 2012.

"The programs they both present are popular," said Emma Trudeau, the library's reference and adult services librarian.

"We probably have at a minimum 20 people for their talks, and it's usually a lot more," she said. "People really seem to enjoy the presentations. They come armed with a lot of interesting questions."

Owens, who works in food service management for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction's Correctional Reception Center in Orient, is already planning his next talk at the library.

On April 19, he will discuss the causes of the American Civil War.

Walter's next program will be a three-part discussion about the Battle of Gettysburg on May 17 and 24 and June 7.

More information about Owens and his book is available at facebook.com/pg/author.jeffreytowens.

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