Leon F. Olsen

Leon F. Olsen

The picture my mom took of my grandparents for their 50th wedding anniversary.

Most of my memories of my grandfather revolve around his library. It was where he was most at home.  He started collecting books at the age of 12. At night, he would climb out of his bedroom window and catch nightcrawlers which he would sell to fisherman. He would make $20-$30 worth of book money a summer. Before he passed, he chose a book to give to each of the grandchildren – as if he were giving each of us a piece of him. His selections were thoughtful, as was his nature, and I was touched when he gave me an original copy of The House of the Lord. He was wise about many things both temporal and spiritual, and when you entered his library it was like sitting at the feet of a master teacher.

He worked for many years for the LDS church and though he was soft spoken and introverted, he could talk for hours about church history or the stories behind various church properties. When I was in college I entered the Leonard J. Arrington Memorial Essay Contest. (A contest based on a yearly Mormon history lecture in memory of Leonard J. Arrington.) The year I entered, the lecture was “The Emotional and Priestly Logic of Plural Marriage.” When I asked my grandpa if he could help me find some resources for my essay he got a twinkle in his eye and started pulling books off his shelves. “I bet you’ll be the only to have access to some of these resources,” he said. I won third place in the contest something I doubt I could have done without his help. (The resumes of 1st and 2nd place were quite impressive.) The prize money made it so we were able to purchase a stroller and carseat for our first baby.

When I announced I was pregnant with Cooper the first thing he asked was, “Do you have good insurance?” He was a practical man who also cared deeply. Even though he preferred calm and quiet, he always enjoyed it when I brought my kids (the antithesis of calm and quiet) to his house.

He served as a bishop in our church and as a Patriarch for many years. He gave all my siblings and me our patriarchal blessings which made something already so special and personal, that much more meaningful. He was very humble about the positions he’d held in the church and rarely spoke about the many duties he’d fulfilled over the years, but from the few stories he or my grandma let slip and the fact that he was mentioned in our church’s General Conference I know he served faithfully.

His obituary states that “[h]e patiently endured physical struggles through most of his years, but his spirit remained strong despite these challenges, always finding life filled with more joy than sorrow.” He will forever be an example to me of perseverance and optimism. He will be missed, but I know there was a warm welcome for him when he passed.

Holding Ellen when she was a few months old.
Holding Ellen when she was a few months old.

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