- Written by Jeff Summers Jeff Summers
Dean Olsen was born on December 12, 1915. He was the seventh child out of eight born to Heber and Mary Eliza Olsen. They made their home in Logan Utah in what was referred to as “Little Berlin”. It was so named because of the German immigrants who made their homes there. Grandpa once said that when the residents of the neighborhood made sauerkraut, no one could stand to be in that part of town because of the smell.
He was very close to his family though like any kid, he sometimes had his differences. When he was a boy, he decided to run away from home and become a bum. Grandpa rode his horse to the train tracks and jumped on a freight train. He left a note pinned to the horse telling his family where he had gone. Grandpa got as far a Butte where it turned cold and started to snow. That is when he decided that the hobo life was not for him. He jumped the next train and went home.
When he as 18 or 19, Grandpa and three of his friends took and old car and went to Yellowstone. They ate moldy bread and fish and slept in a tent. One night a bear smelled the food and decided to join them in the tent. Grandpa always loved Yellowstone Park. He always referred to it as old “Yellowrock”.
Grandpa’s love of the outdoors started when his Uncle Ez taught him to hunt and fish. He loved to fly fish and duck hunt. Whenever he had a chance, you would find him with a fishing pole in his hand trying to land that special fish.
On June 18, 1936 he married Velma Watterson in the Salt Lake City Temple. He loved Grandma very much and always took care of her. They moved to Garfield Utah where they lived for 9 years. They were married for four years and did not have any children. They were beginning to think they would never have children when VelDean came along. Grandpa was the one who decided on the name VelDean where he took the first syllable of Grandma’s and added Grandpa’s name to it. When VelDean was one month old, Grandma and Grandpa took her camping and bathed her in a canyon creek. Already Grandpa had his new family on a fishing trip.
Three years later, still living in Garfield, Grandma gave birth to Heber. They named Heber after Grandpa’s father. Two years after Heber’s birth, Grandma and Grandpa moved to their home in Idaho Falls. Grandpa called it “Alcohol Falls”. He always had a different name for everything. When Heber had his third birthday, Grandpa was working for a meat packing plant. All Heber wanted for his birthday was a pig’s tail. So on the day of his birthday, Grandpa brought Heber a pig’s tail from a pig they had slaughtered that day. Heber opened the package, saw the tail and threw the whole package up in the air and run off. Grandpa told this story many times and it always made him laugh.
The same year that Grandma and Grandpa moved to Idaho, Bob was born. Each year on their birthdays, Grandpa would give the kids a birthday spanking with a piece of 2X4. When Bob was 7 or 8, he decided to outsmart Grandpa. So before Grandpa came in to give Bob his spanking, Bob filled his pants with comic books so that he would not feel the licking.
Grandpa took his boys with him whenever he went hunting and fishing. They were always together even when the other fathers did not bring their children.
Three years later, Janet was born making their family complete. When Janet was growing up and wanted to borrow the car, Grandpa would make her and her friends get down on their knees and beg to get the car.
Grandpa made sure that his family was close. He once said that by the time he got to know his father, his dad was to old to do anything with as a family. He swore that he would not be that way.
He loved his family more than anything and included them in everything he did.
Each Sunday, Grandpa would sit down with his children and read them the comics. All the children would sit on his lap and he would read. Grandpa always would start out reading out loud but would stop half way through. The kids would wait several moments for him to finish. Grandpa was reading faster than his mouth would go. His mouth stopped when he was done reading and he would forget that he was supposed to be reading out loud. He would be laughing at the comics before his mouth had completed the punch line.
Sunday afternoons, Grandpa would pack up his family and go for a drive. He loved his Sunday drives. It didn‘t matter where they would go; he enjoyed the ride. As he drove, he would sing a song. It was always the same song, Johnny Vrabek. To this day, his kids can sing the words to this song. As they were driving, Grandpa would come to a road he hadn’t seen and have to go down this path. When questioned why, Grandpa always explained, “To see where it ends”. More times than naught, it ended in someone’s back yard. But that was part of the fun, to see where it goes.
Each year, he took his family to Yellowstone Park. Grandpa always wanted to go before the tourists got there. Every year on Mothers Day they went to the park. Grandpa said they would have gone earlier but Mothers Day is when they start scraping the snow off the roads. Grandpa enjoyed Yellowstone and made sure his family saw the beauty of nature in this park. Whenever they went to Yellowstone, the family took their pad of paper to count the animals they saw along the way.
Every night after dinner and before bed, Grandpa and the children had their dessert. Dessert to Grandpa was one of five items: cookies and milk, crackers and milk, cake and milk, bread with jam and milk, or ice cream. After dinner, Grandpa would always fall asleep at the table. After a while, Grandma would have to wake him up and tell him it was time to go to bed. I never remember a dinner at Grandmas that he didn’t go to sleep. That was just Grandpa.
lt seemed Grandma always knew what Grandpa wanted before he did. All he would have to do is look and Grandma would get it for him. Some say she spoiled him, but I knew it was because she loved him so much. They were always together. If Grandpa was fishing, Grandma was there with him. If he went Sage Hen hunting, Grandma was there with him. They have a very special relationship that very few have.
As the grandchildren came along, Grandpa always took time to be with them. Grandpa had all the patience in the world for kids. Grandpa loved children. To him, they were the greatest joy on Earth. Kids always brought a smile to his face and happiness to his life. Even to the end, Grandpa was thinking of the children. As he lay in the hospital, he asked VelDean, “What are the little girls getting for Christmas?”
I asked each grandchild what he or she remembered most growing up with Grandpa. Here is what each thought:
When Keri was going to college, she would always come down on weekends and play cards with Grandma and Grandpa. It seemed Grandpa’s reflexes were much slower than hers and she always beat him at Speed. Grandpa was a gracious loser and always ended the game with a smile.
As a young boy, Dean went fishing along with Grandpa in Yellowstone. Dean was in a hurry to get his hook in the water while Grandpa first wanted to have his lunch. Grandpa let him go ahead and fish while he ate. Dean and 50 other people cast their lines into the water time and time again without getting a bite. After an hour, Grandpa finished his meal and went to where Dean was fishing. He cast his line into the water and in less than 5 minutes Grandpa had caught a 14 1/2 inch fish. He released the fish and announced it was time to go. Dean learned a valuable lesson on patience that day.
Troy speaks of Grandpa as the best example of someone who lived life to the fullest. He appreciated the morals and values that Grandpa passed on to his children. Grandpa has passed on a legacy to his descendants.
To Darin, Grandpa will be remembered as teaching him that everyone was their own individual. You must think for yourself and learn from your mistakes.
Marnie often went fishing with Grandpa. Once when they were salmon fishing, Grandpa caught a rat fish which stung Grandpa in the hand. Although the barb went clear through Grandpa’s finger, causing his hand to swell up, Grandpa never complained.
Nick remembered Grandpa was always excited and animated when he talked. We once said if you tied Grandpa’s hands to his side, his mouth wouldn’t work. If you needed an opinion on a subject, you could always count on Grandpa to give you his. But he respected your side as well as he did his own.
When Mike was young, Dean, Troy, Mike, Rod, and I went with Grandma and Grandpa on one of his famous Sunday drives. This particular Sunday, there were many semi-trucks on the road. Mike was sitting in the back of the Jeep and as a semi would approach, Mike would signal the truck to honk its horn. The truck driver always obliged. Grandpa could never figure out why all of these trucks were honking at him. After all, he was going the speed limit.
As a child, l remember going with Grandpa all the time. One year he was building in Yellowstone and Rod and I spent our summer vacation in West Thumb. Grandpa made sure we saw all the sights while we were there. He could point out all the details that most of us miss. There was nothing that got past the watchful eyes of Grandpa. He had an explanation for everything. Whenever any of us would complain of mosquitos, Grandpa always told us that mosquitos were just a figment of our imaginations. As near as I can figure, I have the most active imagination in the world because they just keep biting me.
During his after dinner naps, Grandpa talked in his sleep. He always talked about carpentry. Listening to him and mimicking the actions to what he was saying, he and l must have build a hundred buildings together.
When I was 14, Grandpa remodeled our house on Shelley Street. I would come home after school and ask if I could help him. Grandpa tried every day to teach me to nail boards, but I always did it backwards. Grandpa showed the patience of Job, but claimed he couldn’t teach a “South Paw” how to hammer a nail.
Grandpa always told me, “When I go for a drive, I want to take time to stop and read all the ‘Hysterical Markers’ along side the road.” Grandpa always wanted to see and learn new things. When he travelled, Grandpa went at his own slow deliberate pace. He was often kidded about how slow he drove, but he showed us by getting a speeding ticket in a school zone in Arizona. Whenever he was driving or working, Grandpa whistled the same tune. I never knew what the song was, but Grandpa sure liked it.
I have four daughters. Three of them live with us; one has gone ahead to live with her Heavenly Father. Ashley is age 8, Lindsay would be 6, Mallorie is 5, and Tiffany is 18 months. As Grandpa passed away, I found myself with the task of explaining to my children that their Great-Grandfather was no longer with us. I gathered my daughters around me and began to explain this delicate situation. Mallorie was somewhat confused as to which of her Grandfathers was gone. I tried several different descriptions to clarify Grandpa’s identity, but was getting nowhere.
Seeing my frustration, Mallorie offered her help, “You mean the raspberry Grandpa?”
“Yes,” I said, “The Grandpa that helped you pick raspberries every summer.”
“Oh. I sure liked him, he was fun.” She said.
I went on to tell the children the best l could the events of his death. I was not quite sure how much detail I should give them, but they led me at their own pace as to how much they wanted to know.
Ashley is a very perceptive young lady who had to deal with the loss of the family dog Bandit earlier in the year. She sensed that I was an emotional wreck over the loss of my Grandpa. Ashley gently reached over and put her arm around me to console her tearful father.
“That’s OK Dad,” She said. “Grandpa is in Heaven now. He went up to take care of Lindsay and Bandit until we get there.”
Through the eyes and minds of these children I received all the comfort in the world. For they knew in their hearts that life is everlasting. To them, Grandpa didn’t die, he merely moved away.
Don’t worry though we will see him again, for we too are going to move to that neighborhood one day. And if you find you are missing him now, you can contact him. Just look at the loving memories that he left in the hearts of all he touched.
The last ten years of his life, Grandpa and Grandma spent the winter months of their retirement at 5 Mile Landing in Arizona. There Grandpa spent his days fishing every day. On the back of their trailer, Grandpa put a bumper sticker, which said, “Even the worst day of fishing is better than the best day of work”. With all the fish Grandpa caught, he was given the nickname “Mr. Catfish” by his friends in Arizona.
Grandpa was a thoughtful man. He never found fault in others. He always looked at the good things someone had to offer and never dwelt on the negative. Grandpa was liked by everyone. Although he rarely admitted it, Grandpa loved to teach. He was strong willed yet fair. Grandpa always thought before he spoke. He was the kind of father everyone wants, the kind of Grandfather every kid dreams of. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.
Grandpa, we love you very much. Once again you are travelling a road to see where it ends. You have the chance to be with the friends you once knew, and see the children who are going to be. Now is your chance, go forth and teach those around you. Thanks for being my Grandpa.