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Dr. Olen Cooper Wilson, Jr. – November 23, 2012


Olen Wilson, loving husband and father, left his earthly existence November 23, 2012, after a struggle with dementia.  Throughout his life, Olen was committed to giving to his family, his church, and his community.
A celebration of his life will be held at 3 pm. on December 15, 2012, at First Presbyterian Church, Amarillo.  Family will be present in the church sanctuary at 2:30 pm. for visitation.
Olen was born in Elkhart, Kansas on June 12, 1931 to Vernal and Olen C. Wilson, Sr. As a child, his family moved around a lot. College experiences took him to the University of Colorado on a square dancing scholarship and then to Texas Tech University. In 1956, he graduated from Washington University School of Dental Medicine in St. Louis where he met and married Edna. After completing his Army service in Germany, they chose to move to Amarillo to raise their family and establish his dental practice, which he continued until his retirement in 2008.
Olen was gregarious, fiercely independent, and loved playing practical jokes. He was intensely proud of Amarillo and his family. He taught his children the power of generosity, the pursuit of endeavors larger than oneself, and the importance of education, self-reliance, and perseverance. Service was an important part of Olen’s life. He believed both formal and informal education were paramount to achievement in life, and his participation in groups such as PTA, Boy Scouts of America, and TCU Parents’ Board reflected his philosophy.
Olen joined First Presbyterian Church as a teenager. His devotion to the church was manifest in decades of service in roles ranging from Sunday School teacher and superintendent, youth sponsor, deacon and elder, to member of numerous committees. His Presbyterian commitment extended beyond local service to significant regional and national contributions such as his participation in seminary students’ education through their written and oral ordination examinations, General Assembly member, historical preservation, and mission.
Dr. Wilson believed practicing dentistry was a privilege, and he was very active in the Panhandle District Dental Society, Texas Dental Association, American Dental Association, and Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity. He helped build a local collaborative dental culture. This included assisting new dentists to launch their practices, and establishing a professional assistance program to help keep offices open when colleagues experienced illness or other major life events. He was willing to talk with anyone interested in becoming a dentist, and over the years, he wrote many dental school recommendation letters for the benefit of Panhandle students.  Olen worked closely with Amarillo College dental programs teaching and examining students, and with high school vocational health occupation students, providing training opportunities in his busy practice.
Olen was a passionate advocate and leader for the Presbyterian Home for Children, serving on its Board of Directors for many years. He set a striking example by ensuring that the children always had access to necessary dental care, and he worked tirelessly to make sure the Home’s needs were met. Olen also was a committed member and leader of the Amarillo West Rotary Club, and found the Friday lunch meetings an important part of his weekly schedule. His belief in the Rotary mission permitted him to build international relationships with other Rotarians and exchange students that he greatly enjoyed, and he was a Paul Harris Fellow.
He was a father who was enjoyed by the friends of his children, and he encouraged his home to be a regular crossroads for meetings and spontaneous drop- ins. He showed perpetual optimism through his yard work and annual vegetable garden. He enjoyed decorating for the holidays, and liked to entertain friends be it a theme party, Bible study, or community gathering.  Olen was a creative person, and he was accomplished at leather tooling, jewelry making, flower arranging, painting, stained glass work, and many other handcrafts.  He loved traveling, dancing (Norwegian, ballroom and country), working puzzles, and playing any competitive card game. Olen was a lifelong learner who loved to read and discuss ideas, current affairs, and world events.
Earlier this fall, he was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 56 years, Edna.
He is survived by his children and their families: Lynn (Amarillo); Mark (Iowa City, IA), wife Mary Beth, Vince, Elena; Anne (Arlington, VA), Megan, Melissa, Brad, Drew; Erik (Amarillo); Lisa (Arlington, TX); Sara (Richmond, VA), husband Steven, Avery, and Ainsley. Other survivors include his sisters-in-law, Mary Lou Gabbert and Myrna Williamson, St. Louis; brothers-in law, Martin Gabbert of St. Louis and Jim Frohnapfel of Jupiter, FL; many nieces and nephews; and two grand-dogs, Millie and Becca.
Special thanks to Ware Living Center and to Hospice of the Southwest for their tremendous care and support.  In lieu of flowers, the family encourages others to honor Olen through memorials to the Edna & Olen Wilson Scholarship Fund at Opportunity Plan, Inc, PO Box 1035, Canyon, TX 79015-1035.  This fund will award college scholarships to students graduating from the Presbyterian Home for Children.

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