Donald A. Promnitz/The Madera Tribune
Yolanda Leamon holds a portrait of her parents, Wilbur and Lloyce Olson. The Olsons were killed west of Madera in a car accident last week, but not before leaving behind a legacy of 17 years of missionary work in South America, and a business that has been in operation for 45 years.
A 65-year love story ended tragically this month west of Madera when an elderly couple was killed as their car collided with a truck.
The man, Wilbur Olson, 86, a longtime Madera accountant, and his wife, Loyce, 83, were Madera residents who lived on Avenue 17 1/2.
Their oldest child, Yolanda Leamon, said that while it has been a hardship on the family to lose both of her parents, it was in a way a blessing that the two went together, for as man and wife they had been virtually inseparable.
Both of them were the offspring of missionaries with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and they had been married 65 years, a relationship that began when they were teenage sweethearts.
They fell in love on a balsa raft in the South American wilderness.
“My dad was 19; my mom was 16. And so (their families) all went together, and didn’t know each other, but it took them two weeks on this balsa raft, floating down the Amazon River,” Leamon said. “They’d have to go in under the mosquito nets, when the sun would go down, so they wouldn’t be eaten alive, and they would just talk, and talk and talk, and talk, all of them, the six of them, and chat, and they became acquainted, they really became acquainted.”
Not long after, Wilbur Olson proposed to the young Lloyce Dickinson.
“They sent mom back to the United States, to go to school, and dad went back, too, and they went in the same airplane, and sat next to each other,” Leamon said. “And my dad says: ‘What are you going to do? I want to know if you’ll be the mother of my kids.’”
The couple waited until after Lloyce finished high school. Then, they were married on June 10, 1951. Together, they would have four children, along with 12 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. They would also continue their work as missionaries, spending 17 years in South America, nine of which were in Peru.
There, they worked to set up much-needed medical clinics and schools for the natives in Peru, and their family became the first whites to set foot on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, high in the mountains bordering Bolivia and Peru. The islands have since become an international tourist attraction, bringing wealth to the native Uru people who live there.
After returning from their mission work, Wilbur found employment as chief controller at a publishing press in Mountain View, before starting Olson Business Services as a side business in 1971. In 1986, he came to Madera, opening his company as a full-time operation. Here, from offices on Yosemite Avenue, he helped small businesses with accounting, payroll, notary consulting, and tax preparation. He became known for his small pencils, smaller handwriting, and fast typing.
Mrs. Olson, for her part, spent most of her time as a homemaker, but also ran a child care business from the home for 15 years. She also worked as a receptionist for her husband during tax season. A committed advocate for the Adventist diet, she taught cooking classes, which Leamon has carried on, and the two would co-author the cookbook: “Goodness, Pure and Simple.” Leamon also carries on the legacy of their family business. Now located at 18870 Avenue 17 1/2, the company, called Leamon Business Services, continues to help small companies with their needs.
The Olsons’ impact, according to Leamon, can still be felt in the Madera community.
“People would come in with their taxes, and end up telling them about their lives. He was like a personal counselor to so many people,” Leamon said.
“They cared about people — themselves, as human beings.”
Wilbur and Lloyce Olson’s journey, however, came to an end on Feb. 7, when they were on their way to see a dentist, and go shopping. According to California Highway Patrol Officer Josh McConnell, Wilbur, driving a 2007 Ford Crown Victoria sedan, was going southbound on Road 19, and reached a stop sign at Avenue 14. Witness reports show that Olson stopped, and proceeded through the intersection, when his car was hit from the side by a 2008 Ford F-350 pickup truck carrying a septic tank. The truck was eastbound on Avenue 14. The collision drove the Olsons’ car into a concrete bollard at the intersection. The truck was reportedly going approximately 55 mph when it struck the sedan.
“It’s understood that the truck was traveling eastbound,” McConnell said, and there was no stop sign.
Lloyce Olson was declared dead at the scene of the accident, while her husband, severely injured, was taken by helicopter to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. He died later that day. Leamon said he was still conscious, speaking to the doctors at the hospital.
Mr. and Mrs. Olson, Leamon said, were in perfect health. They showed no signs of slowing down, and Wilbur continued to work six days a week, breaking on Saturday for the sabbath. Leamon said the pair were still just as in love as they were on the balsa raft which carried them down the Amazon.
“He was extremely in love with Lloyce and adored her,” Leamon wrote. “Just last week, while we were eating lunch together, he looked at her with the sweetest smile and said: ‘Isn’t she just so beautiful?’”
A memorial service for Wilbur and Lloyce Olson will be held this afternoon at 1 o’clock at Clovis Seventh-day Adventist Church, 2370 Helm Ave., in Clovis. All gifts in lieu of flowers will go towards building a medical clinic in the Peruvian highlands.