May 2024 Newsletter

“The Best Thing I Ever Did”

A Visit with The Olsens

By Dale Dauten

If you’re like me, you’ve got a bit of an obsession with the “what might have beens” of life, fascinated by all the millions of little events, decisions and coincidences that become turning points. That’s especially true with how two people, each riding their great wave of improbability, come together to be a couple.


What got me thinking about small decisions turning into big events was visiting with Ada and Robert “Whitey” Olsen and hearing how a sweater changed their lives.

The Olsens have been married for 55 years, so our story backs up to the late sixties. First, we have to get our two protagonists into the same city, which requires a bit of background …



Although she was born in Oklahoma, Ada’s dad was in the Air Force and got transferred to New Mexico, first to the radar site near Tierra Amarilla that covered Los Alamos, then to a base in Albuquerque. Her dad ran the mess hall, and the family – parents and four siblings – lived in a mobile home, one that Ada recalled as snug for a family home at 8’X35’. Ada went on to graduate from Albuquerque High, and continued working a job she’d started while a student, working in the office of a collection agency.



Meanwhile, Whitey was born in Indiana; however, he and his brother suffered from severe asthma/allergies and their parents were advised to head to a drier climate… they chose Albuquerque. After graduating from Valley High, Whitey head off to the Navy and got the coveted stationing in Hawaii, only to have severe reactions to the climate there. Given that the Navy doesn’t have many dry places to send a young seaman, they sent Whitey back to Albuquerque. Back home, he ended up taking a job in the parts department of a local car dealership, Frontier Ford.


So, now we have two young adults in Albuquerque; and, doing what so many young adults do on a Saturday night, Ada and a friend headed out to local bar/nightclub, this one a country-western place called the Hitching Post. During that evening, Whitey and a friend happened to come in and sit next to Ada and her friend. The four chatted a bit, but nothing came of it.


That was Saturday night. The following Monday Ada started a new job, working as a cashier at Frontier Ford. Once on the job, Ada noticed Whitey in the Parts Department and said, “I think that’s the guy I met Saturday night.” And, looking back, adds, “I guess it was fate.” But hold on… Whitey, pleased to re-meet his new colleague, asked her out. But no, she turned him down. She felt that she didn’t want to date a co-worker and also felt “he liked to party more than to my liking.” Undeterred, he asked her out several times, but she continued to turn him down. Then came the office Christmas party. Ada described what happened: “He bought me a Christmas gift. It was a sweater, a beautiful sweater. I decided that if I was going to keep it, I should finally go out with him.” As for Whitey, he says, “Buying that sweater was the best thing I ever did.”


And, in the photos below, you can see how things transpired from there (and you can see how Whitey came to have his nickname…

In looking for a wedding photo to share, Ada came across this old ad from the Ford dealer where they once worked. (This was long before spell-checkers – notice the typo above the company name.)


The couple went on to have two kids, Michelle and Steve, and now have five grandkids. Whitey worked at the dealership till he had an opportunity to become a steamfitter, working on power plants. When a recession caused those jobs to dry up, he was welcomed back at the Ford dealer, and became their Parts Manager.


Meanwhile, Ada stayed home till the kids were in school, then went back to work, starting with driving a school bus but then working for the school district and finally for a finance company, eventually working her way up to handling loan underwriting and compliance. In fact, she made herself so valuable that the company wouldn’t let her quit. She explained what happened when they planned to buy an RV and see the country: “When Whitey retired in 2012, I tried to retire, too. But my boss panicked – he didn’t have anyone else who could do the government reports. He said, ‘It’s all on the computer. You can work on the road.’ And I did… for 12 years, and I only went into the office once or twice in those 12 years.” Thus, Ada became a remote employee before the term “remote employee” existed.



By the time Whitey retired and Ada went remote, they took the RV to visit family in Texas, and decided they would not want to spend winters there – it was, as Ada said, “too hot, humid and windy.”

So the following Fall, they began to think about where they might want to try spending the coming winter. A friend suggested Apache Junction and, after an internet search, Ada described what happened next:


“We eventually decided on Silveridge. We arrived on January 1st in 2013 for three-month stay. We were greeted right away by our neighbors, Buck and Rose Buxton. That evening we attended a dance and Myrna and Duane Ehlert were our table mates. They made us feel so welcome — they gave us info on the park and invited us down to play shuffleboard the next morning. We loved being here in Silveridge and meeting people of all walks of life gathering for friendship and the various activities, dinner shows, etcetera. The next season we came for four months, then five and then we were booking six months. In 2019, we bought a park model.”


Then, in 2022, Ada finally gave up her job and the two settled into fulltime residency at Silveridge, including summers. While they hate to see so many friends leave in advance of the heat, they continue to keep busy. As Ada told us, “Life continues with various activities still available down at the club house. We still enjoy coffee and donut time, card games, I’ve seen quilters working, library is open, water aerobics, weekly and/or holiday monthly pot lucks. And I  volunteer to keep the paper crafters room open for any summer folks who would like to come down on Wednesdays mornings 9:30 to 1:00. Any crafter, who wishes to bring their crochet, or other projects down to Room 5 are welcome to join in. I can always adjust time to accommodate another day or evening.”



Let’s end with an answer to that question that we love, the one about the best advice you’ve ever gotten. Whitey thought for a moment and said, “Someone said to me once, talking about being open, ‘Never forget, when you come to a ‘T’ in the road, you can take either one.’” We’re still thinking about that one.


Meanwhile, here’s a photo of Whitey taken at one of his favorite Silveridge activities…