The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

Library remodel set to start

 

March 21, 2018

Contributed

BEQUEST PAYS THE WAY: A bequest by Wilma Olsen in the 1990s is now helping to pay for the remodel of the Goldendale Library.

The remodel of the Goldendale Community Library is set to get underway in just a few weeks, thanks in great part, to the generosity of the late Wilma Olsen. Her bequest to the Goldendale Library in the late 1990s has grown to over $500,000 due to careful financial management by the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Foundation.

New windows, new lighting, and reconfigured ADA bathrooms will be installed. Quiet study rooms and a teen area will be added. The library will get all new furniture, carpet, and paint. And the room on the second floor that leads to the outside terrace will have a new purpose and new name, the Olsen Room-a quiet wing for gathering, for reading and for study.

According to Kathy Playfair, a relative of the Olsen's through marriage, knowing her donation would in part go toward a reading room would have made Wilma Olsen happy.

"She loved books, loved history," Playfair told the librarian Erin Krake. "She was an intellectual, very proper and well-read. She would have wanted a quiet place to read with cozy chairs, maybe a mock fireplace. Most of all, she wanted to help her community. She loved Goldendale."

According to their son, Marc Olsen, Ort and Wilma Olsen were both raised in Klickitat County, Wilma in Wishram and Ort in Goldendale. They were married in 1934 and moved to their first home on West A Street. Soon they welcomed two sons, Joel in 1935 and Marc in 1938.

During those early years, Ort worked in the auto and logging industry. In 1943 he was injured in a logging accident which ended his work in that industry. Wilma was busy as a homemaker.

In 1945 Ort purchased, together with his brother Vern, the Shell station on South Columbus Avenue. Vern ran the repair shop and Ort the front of the business. Soon they acquired several auto dealerships and the business eventually became Olsen's Pontiac Company.

During the next twenty-five years Ort ran the business and became active in civic and community affairs serving on the city council and other organizations. Wilma raised their family and involved herself with friends in the community.

Ort retired in 1975 and he and Wilma built their dream home on the hills above Goldendale, on what is now called Olsen Lane. Ort passed away in 1978 after an extended illness. Wilma continued living in that home until her passing in 1997.

Their son Marc says, "They never wanted to be anywhere else. This was, in every sense of the word, their Home."

Wilma wanted to return the benefit that they had received from their lives in Goldendale back to the community. In so doing she gave her entire estate to civic organizations in and around Goldendale, including the Goldendale Library, Klickitat County Historical Society, Methodist church, Masonic Lodge, Maryhill Museum, Goldendale Senior Center, the hospital, and the City of Goldendale for a cover for the swimming pool.

In the 2000 edition of Klickitat Heritage, the Klickitat County Historical Society expressed their gratitude to Wilma and her family for her generosity with a special resolution:

"Wilma Olsen was a quiet and unassuming, but classy lady. She was a KCHS board member and enjoyed field trips to historic places and community activities at the Presby Museum.... Wilma loved our community."

So the next time you go to the library, swim at the pool, visit the Presby or have an x-ray done at the clinic, remember that Ort and Wilma Olsen and their family helped to make it possible, all because they loved Goldendale.

 

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