William O. Olesen, Jr. of Moscow, one of the Great Generation, passed away Monday, April 27, 2015 at his home, surrounded by his loving family. He was 89. Born in Asotin, Washington to William O. and Hattie H. Olesen, Bill was a man of great character and many dimensions. Independent from the ground up, his life was one of service to others. He was a devoted son, husband, father, sailor, Air Force officer, businessman, farmer, leader, volunteer, musician and friend.
Growing up during the Depression, Bill started his first business at the age of ten, delivering papers year-round on two dispersed routes in Moscow. He was devoted to his mother, Hattie, who was divorced from his father when he was very young. Together, they weathered the economic storm by a devotion to hard work. He never forgot the value of a day’s pay and made certain as an adult that his family was well cared for.
Bill signed up for the Navy in Lewiston with his close friend Gene LeFors, in October, 1943, at the height of World War II. He arranged to finish high school early and reported for duty five days before his 18th birthday. His first stop was Farragut for basic training, and following boot camp, he went to sea. For decades after the war, Bill was a regular organizer and participant in naval reunions at Farragut. He was a central figure in a documentary that was eventually filmed about the famous camp.
After training at Farragut, Bill was assigned to the USS Saginaw Bay, an aircraft carrier, the first of three ships he served on in the Pacific. He later moved to the USS Ashland, shore duty at Pearl Harbor and then to the USS Prairie. While serving on the Ashland, it was engaged in assaults in the Marianas, including Saipan. Later, at Pearl Harbor, he worked as Admiral William Calhoun’s driver. Many adventures ensued, including services to General Douglas MacArthur and President Roosevelt.
After the war, Bill returned home to Moscow and to the love of his life, Eleanor Bosse. They were married on April 6, 1948. Over the next six years they had four children, Wayne, Lorrayne, Ken and Phyllis (PJ). Their adventures growing up at the summer cabin on the Clearwater, lake trips, camping and band performances around north central Idaho could fill a book.
Bill was an entrepreneur at heart, engaging in several successful businesses over the years. One of his favorites was Fahrenwald Chevrolet, where he worked for many years in car and fleet sales. He and Eleanor also were long-time partners in Jaclyn’s Children and Maternity Wear. Over time, he co-owned Fork Refrigeration, from which he retired in the early 1990’s, owned Shaw Vending in Moscow, and later purchased a farm east of town in 1966.
Bill was an avid musician and played in bands with several close friends for over 70 years. Some of his favorite memories were performances at the Wilderness Gateway on the Lochsa each summer. He and Eleanor often took long RV trips around the country. Eventually these journeys led to a second home in Yuma, Arizona where he continued to play the drums in a band into his 80’s with his lifelong friend, Ralph Haley.
Bill continued to serve the military throughout his adult life. After graduating from college at the University of Idaho, he joined the Air Force Reserve. At retirement in 1986, he was a lieutenant colonel. In private life, he was equally dedicated to public service. He gave many years to the Moscow Central Lion’s Club, delighting in raising money for worthy causes. He was also active in St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Knights of Columbus, Good Sam Club, and the Moscow Rural Fire Department as Commissioner for 31 years.
He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Eleanor, at their Moscow home, sons Wayne (Carol) Olesen of Troy and Ken (Jayne) Olesen of Moscow; daughters, Lorrayne (Gary) Jonson of Yuma, AZ and Phyllis “PJ” (Tom) Hudson of Redlands, CA. He also leaves 14 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. Bill was preceded in death by his sister, Gertrude Hill.
Bill was a fair man who admired honesty and straight talk. For him, a verbal promise or a handshake was sacred. He had a great sense of humor and loved a good practical joke. He cherished his friendships, many of which went back half a century or more. More than anything else, he loved his family and was devoted to his wife. All who know them can attest they are a true partnership. He will be sorely missed and remembered with deep appreciation for a life well lived.
The Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 AM on Saturday, May 2, 2015 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Recitation of the rosary will be conducted at 10:30 AM. A luncheon will follow Mass at St. Mary’s Family Center.
Memorials are suggested to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, The Moscow Rural Fire Department, or to the Moscow Central Lion’s Club.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Short’s Funeral Chapel, Moscow, and online condolences may be sent towww.shortsfuneralchapel.net.