Living the Dash: A Family Legacy
Living the Dash: A Family Legacy

Living the Dash: A Family Legacy

What is a dash? Is it simply a punctuation mark? A long horizontal line? Perhaps. Yet, you can dash through the rain, add a dash of spice to a dish, or dash your hopes.

The family of Richard “Dick” Olsen shares how the dash is so much more. In a poem called “The Dash,” written by Linda Ellis, the Olsens teach us about the dates on a tombstone. We often read the dates of the beginning of a life and its end, but what matters most is the dash between those dates.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth….What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.”

Linda Ellis

Ann Marie Thurmes, daughter of Dick and Marie Olsen, recalls how her parents taught her to live the dash well. On July 28th, she will receive the Dunrovin 2022 Brother I. Damian Award on behalf of her father and his life of philanthropy.

Dunrovin honors Dick Olsen because of his legendary generosity and influence on the Retreat Center and its history. As a long-time member of the Board of Directors, Dick shaped Dunrovin’s mission and vision. He helped raise funds and built a house (the convent) for three Guadalupana De La Salle Sisters who lived at Dunrovin for many years. Dick donated much time and treasure to the first decade of the Sunset Benefit Cruise. We are deeply grateful.

Dick Olsen cheered on many organizations in their endeavors to make the world a better place. When he died in late winter of 2014, most of Stillwater mourned. Was there a non-profit he had not supported or encouraged somehow? Ann Marie says he especially loved to cheer on the underdog. A multi-star athlete, Dick avidly watched any student competing in sports.

Dunrovin placed two memorial benches as a token of gratitude for Dick’s goodness. The family chose the words “From past and present generations To the future” for one bench, words embodying Dick and Marie’s desire to pass on their values of faith, family, service, and life.

When Camille, Director of Marketing and Development at Dunrovin, developed the 2022 theme for the Sunset Benefit Cruise, she had no idea Ann Thurmes/Dick Olsen would be the Brother I. Damian Award recipient.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. (Proverbs 27:19)

Camille joyfully states, “Your life is a reflection of what is in your heart. Dick was so selfless, so giving. He really reflects an amazing heart. This theme is perfect for his legacy.”

Dunrovin’s youth programs exist due to people like Dick. People who want to make a difference in the lives of others. Needs can seem so big and our contributions so small, but Joaquin Martinez taught us a lesson. As a Latino youth minister, Joaquin works with a population who suffered tremendously during the Covid confusion. He reminded us, “Relieving the suffering of others for only one day gives them that day without as much suffering.”

In her 2015 blogpost, Reflections of a Theology Student, the author acknowledges that most days we do our best “to give time to those in need…to have dinner with a friend…[to] cook dinner for my husband” but other days are riddled with selfishness, impatience, and frustration. So true. We give our best and worst, our ups and downs, and it all counts in the beauty of a life well-lived.

Dunrovin Executive Director Jerome Meeds knew Dick well and enjoys fond memories of his playfulness:

I remember Dick’s faithfulness and consistency. I could go to daily Mass at St. Mary’s and always saw him with a warm greeting and a big smile. When I saw him outside of Mass, he’d greet me with a joke of the day. He had a great sense of humor. Dick hung out with a group of guys at Joseph’s Restaurant and bragged, ‘Every day we solve a world problem. But we also create two!’

“Dick and I had a lot in common. But one thing we didn’t was organization. He was much more organized and buttoned up than me. As a Board and committee member, he gently taught me how to do agendas, minutes, and those things that were not my strong suit. To this day, I use his format on how to lay out a meeting. His legacy lives on at Dunrovin in many practical ways and in his faith and generosity. Dick impacted me and Dunrovin. We are grateful to honor him now [with the Brother I. Damian Award on the Sunset Benefit Cruise 2022]. We know Dick would never have accepted it when he was alive. He was the one to pick out someone else to honor.

“I am grateful for the whole Olsen family and honor them all. Thank you, Ann Marie, for accepting this award in honor of your dad, his legacy, and his generosity.”

As La Salle Christian Brother I. Damian dreamed of ways to impact students, we honor Dick through Ann Marie for sharing Brother Damian’s dream. They believe in those who need a little boost in the world. How much good can be done by the big-hearted!  Dick changed many lives. He taught his family to carry the legacy of reflecting on the dash.

Reflection questions:

  • What do you want written on your tombstone? Let this guide the dash of your life.
  • How often do you check your reflection in a mirror? Do you see the person you want to be? Thank God for who He made you to be, and ask for guidance and wisdom.
  • Are you dashing through your days without stopping for inward self-reflection or outward reflection on the other person’s needs?

Lectio Divina: Proverbs 27:19

  • Lectio (read): Read the Scripture slowly. Listen to the words and allow them to sink into your mind.
  • Meditatio (reflection): Read through the Scripture slowly a second time. Reflect on one word or phrase that catches your heart and meditate on it with your imagination.
  • Oratio (response): Read through the Scripture slowly a third time. Respond to God’s Word with your own prayer of thanksgiving, confession, praise, or simply talking to God.
  • Contemplatio (rest): There is no right or wrong way to allow God’s Word to capture you; simply let it capture you.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

The Dash Poem, by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning to the end.

He noted first came the date of the birth and spoke the following date with tears.
But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between the years.

For that dash represents all the time that they spent life on Earth.
And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash.
What matters is how we live and love, and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real,
and always try to understand the way other people feel.

Be less quick to anger and show appreciation more,
and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

Thank you, God, for wonderful memories of our river guests. Dunrovin’s 28th Annual Sunset Benefit Cruise will be held on Thursday, July 28, 2022. We offer much gratitude to Dick Anderson for founding this event and to the Stillwater River Boats for 28 years of sponsoring the evening. Thousands of people have enjoyed a refreshing evening on the river thanks to their generosity. Through the kindness of cruise guests, hundreds of kids have come on life-transforming retreats. We are grateful.