Ole Olsen — a three-term Plumas County supervisor, local restaurateur and family man — died Nov. 8 at the age of 87.
“It was a fitting day — Election Day,” his eldest daughter, Jennifer Engel, said in talking about her father’s death.
His family was by his side at Renown Medical Center when he died.
This Saturday, Nov. 26, they will gather to celebrate his life at 2 p.m. at the Graeagle Community Church — the church that Olsen helped to found.
Olsen, who retired from the telephone company, was an active member of the Graeagle community and of the county.
He served as a Plumas County supervisor from 1975-78 and again from 2003-2011. His son-in-law, Jeff Engel, now holds the position of District 5 supervisor. As a county supervisor, Olsen served on a host of committees.
Fellow supervisor B.J. Pearson described Olsen as a “laid-back, steady hand on the board.”
He also served on the board of directors for the Plumas Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative.
“Ole Olsen came on the Board of Directors in 1989 and served with distinction his entire tenure on the Board,” said Bob Marshall, the cooperative’s general manager. “He was a strong supporter of PSREC’s efforts to build an alternative power connection to Nevada, greatly improving reliability. He was instrumental in the growth of the telecommunications subsidiary and the provision of new services to our membership and the community since he came on the board.”
Marshall lauded Olsen’s ability to lobby in Washington, D.C.
On a more personal note, he said, “Ole and Joanie are well known and loved throughout the cooperative family. He was a mentor to me and a great friend. I’m really going to miss him.”
Olsen also participated in fraternal organizations; he was a Mason and a Shriner.
But most of all he was a devoted family man, who along with wife Joanie, raised three daughters, and had 10 grandchildren and soon-to-be 13 great-grandchildren.
Joanie recalled fondly their daughters’ high school years when Olsen would deejay their school dances and drive their van to all of the games — both in and out of town.
“He enjoyed it so much,” Joanie said.
She has spent the week since his death combing through old photos and newspaper clippings. One pertained to his support for Measure A, a tax to support the volunteer fire department.
Olsen had been standing in line at the market to buy some hamburger when an alarm sounded. He asked the clerk what it meant and she told him to wait. It sounded again. And again he asked, and again she told him to wait. Then the alarm sounded a third time. “It’s a fire,” she said, explaining that three alarms meant a fire, two meant ambulance and one meant a meeting.
Olsen, who had recently moved to Portola from Southern California, had never heard anything like it. Then he walked outside just as the fire engine drove by with the gas station owner driving, the market owner riding shotgun and the butcher hanging off the back with his apron flapping in the wind.
“Seeing and hearing all this almost brought a tear to my eyes,” he wrote. “Here I am — living in a community where people risk their lives to help each other!”
Olsen would become a volunteer firefighter within just days of that incident.
“This was my first introduction to public service and why I so strongly support the work of our firemen and first responders and all the other volunteer work done by people in our communities. We are fortunate and blessed to live in a county that was founded by volunteers — Plumas County.”
For more details about Olsen’s life, see the obituary section of this newspaper on page 2B.
June 25, 1929 – Nov. 8, 2016
What follows was printed on the back of the menu at Olsen’s Cabin, the popular Graeagle restaurant that Ole and his family ran for years.
The Olsen’s Story
“Dreams are where you want to go — work is how you get there.”
Joan and I purchased the property just west of Olsen’s Cabin back in October of 1958. We had no idea that the area would develop as it has. Fishing, hunting and the two 9-hole golf courses (The Feather River Park Resort and the Feather River Inn) were the prime source of recreation in this area.
On the 1st of August in 1960, with our three daughters, Jennifer — 6 years old, Cynthia ‑ 4 and Melissa — 14 months old, we moved from Portola to a couple of tents pitched on our property. At the time, there were 11 people living in the area and 5 of them were our family.
While we lived in the tents, my wife cooked great meals over a campfire in the backyard. I worked full time for the telephone company out of Portola while evenings and weekends, many times until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, were spent closing in our family room so that we could keep warm during the winter.
Without showers and such, we would go down to the Feather River in the evening for a bath. It may seem like hard times, but as a family, we were very happy working on our dream. We lived in our family room for three-and-a-half years while we built the rest of our home payday to payday. Surviving the cold winter was of prime importance to me and I built a large brick fireplace in which our first fire was celebrated on Christmas Eve of 1960.
The cabin was built for Dr. McKnight in 1936, so it was already here when we purchased our property. He sold it to a man with the Safeway stores in the Oakland area, who in turn sold it in 1968 to a family in the photography business from Palo Alto that traded if for a condominium in Graeagle.
We always liked the cabin and upon hearing that it was for sale, wanted to buy it. Being low on cash, unable to buy it and rent it out, let alone live in two houses at the same time, we knew we would have to do something with it.
Talking about it in bed that night, my wife said, we always thought it would be a great dinner house, and the next day I went to the real estate office and put a deposit down. We started the escrow process, mortgaging our home and purchased the cabin. That was over 25 years ago and here we are, still serving some of the finest food in the area.
See, “Dreams do come true, when you work hard.”
Ole Olsen — the year 2000.