Monday, May 25, 2009

Grandpa and Memorial Day

Last night I watched the powerful PBS presentation of the Washington Memorial Day Tribute.  I was deeply moved by the whole program.  I think it was the best they have ever done.  I couldn't help think of my Grandfather, Harold Olsen, Lt.Jg.  He was Grandpa to me.  Grandpa Olsen served our country with the U.S. Navy for 31 years.  He lived a charmed life.  I've seen pictures as a child of his ship traveling through the harsh winters of the North Atlantic on the destroyer escorting other ships to the European theatre.  The ship would be covered with ice from the sea spray.  He and others would be out, daily breaking ice off the guns and rails to lighten the ship.  In all his trips across those dangerous waters, he never saw a U-boat, enemy plane or any fighting.  
The only time he ever saw bloodshed was when a sniper shot a sailor during one of his trips through the Panama Canal when he was assigned to the Southern waters.
Grandpa loved the Navy.  He never had any aspirations to move beyond Lieutenant Junior Grade.  He simply enjoyed serving others.  That was Grandpa.  Always a man with a serving heart.  He loved his country and loved the people he served.  
After retiring from the Navy, he worked for the San Diego Gas and Electric Company for another 30 plus years.
But it wasn't his Naval service or his stint at SDG&E, but for his service to our Lord.  I first met my Grandpa in 1952 after my parents moved to San Diego from West Virginia.  We arrived in San Diego on Christmas Day to sunny skies and warm weather.  I learned right from the start what my Grandpa was all about.  
Though he was retired from the Navy by then, he still had the Navy in him.  It always seemed strange to me to see his bedroom as neat as a pin, looking like a seaman's office/bedroom while my Grandma slept in a flower scented frilly bedroom down the hall.  It wasn't be because they didn't love each other anymore.  That's just how it was.  Grandpa loved his "Snupsy" as he called her. 
I learned right from the start that he had a servant's heart.  He did everything for Snupsy.  While she cared for the house, he toiled in the garden bringing her flowers daily along with the vegetables and fruit he'd grow.  I'll never forget the 14 foot tall Poinsettias he grew.  
But that still isn't what stood out for me.  You see, Grandpa never left the Navy.  Every Sunday he and Grandma get up before dawn, drove several miles to downtown San Diego to hold a Bible study and service for the Navy boys who were away from home.  Here at the service center, he'd have hot coffee and donuts for every sailor or service man who would come into the building.  Along with the coffee and donuts, he'd conduct a little church service where the sailors could worship away from home.  Many of our boys  found Christ thanks to his loving service to them.  (There weren't many ladies in the service back then, so most of the guests were young men)  
Not one young man ever left those services without a New Testament.  You see, Grandpa was also a Gideon.  He give out a Bible or New Testament to everyone he met.  I can remember him standing outside of High Schools giving out New Testaments to anyone who would want one.  He'd go to churches and  speak about the Gideon ministry, help supply Bibles to motels and hotels and do whatever he could to spread the word. 
Grandpa never said much about is faith in private, but he certainly lived it.  So this Memorial Day, I remember my boyhood hero, Grandpa Olsen.  
Grandpa, if you can hear me, thank you for your witness to me and to the thousands of lives you touched.


  1. Neat. I never got to know either of my grandfathers, as one died before I was born, another when I was an infant. He is certainly an example of what one person can do - and since I'm not the pastor of a mega-church(!!), I love to hear stories about individuals serving Christ in their regular lives. Thanks.

    I saw your comment about my website. Will certainly try to fix that - wasn't even aware of it. I just put in a new template, and it has caused numerous headaches, although I like the three columns. However, I find your layout and colors more restful to the eye!

  2. Ah, I think my comment section works as a pop-up (or pop-out) now. At least, I got it to work twice. If you wouldn't mind trying it out, and leaving a "testing 123 testing" message, I'd sure appreciate it.

  3. Hi Pennyyak. Yes, one person can change the world. Look at D.L. Moody, the former shoeshine boy if I remember correctly.
    Yeah, Grandpa was a special guy. A regular Joe, but one special servant of the Lord. He didn't talk much, but his actions had a huge impact.