As a young man, Gerald “Jerry” Olson, a North Dakota native, owned a unique 1960 MGA Roadster. This hard-to-miss vehicle holds vital memories for the Olson family, including the memory of Jerry’s first date with his future wife, Faye Mills.
“He came up to me and asked how graduation was, and then he said, ‘Do you want to go for a ride in my car this afternoon?’ And— oh, my gosh, yes! And that’s how it started,” said Faye.
Soon after their first date, the two got married, Gerald became a minister and he and Faye had three kids together.
Jerry, as his friends called him, always knew how to live life to the fullest, but life as they knew it drastically changed when a reoccurring spot on Jerry’s hand was identified as cancer. Jerry battled the disease for years, but cancer ultimately took his life when he was just 33 years old.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Faye, and his son, Brian. Although Brian did not have many years with his father, he has only fond memories of Jerry.
“I’m very lucky that I don’t have a bad memory of my dad,” said Brian. “Every memory I have of my dad is him smiling, laughing, making someone else smile, making someone else laugh. Making himself silly, making us Halloween costumes and making the best out of everything. There’s just not a bad memory of him, and I’m thankful for that.”
Recently, the Olson family received a call from William Highland, who had met Jerry over 45 years ago when he bought the MGA Roadster from him.
William was active in the car racing scene back in that day in Aberdeen, and he saw an ad for the Roadster and went to check it out in Willow Lake where the Olsons were living at the time. He remembers his remarkable interaction with Jerry, and he couldn’t believe he wanted to sell his unique car.
By the time William met him, Jerry had already had his arm amputated in an effort to control the spread of the cancer. Jerry could no longer see the value in keeping the car, so his once-prized possession became William’s new toy.
“When I saw the car, I immediately fell in love with it. You know, I thought, ‘This is my car,’” said William.
According to William, Jerry made a point to say that the car was like a member of the Olson family and that it represented years of priceless memories shared with his loved ones.
“And he said, I remember him saying distinctly, it was like part of the family,” said William. “And he said, ‘I had this car when I was in the army. I dated in this car, got engaged in this car, and my kids rode in this car.’ And I didn’t think much of it because I was just a young guy just out of the service myself.”
As he continued talking with Jerry, William began to understand the importance this car had for Jerry.
“I said to him, ‘Why are you getting rid of this? You know, if you like it so much.’ And as he was telling me this story, I could see tears coming down his eyes, and I knew it was a major part of his life, a real major part.”
It was at this point that Jerry explained his cancer diagnosis and told William he could no longer drive the car.
Although William was looking for a race car, he ended up using the Roadster as a touring car, and he enjoyed many more years of fun with his own family.
“It’s been a real enjoyment having this, you know, for me it’s just it’s been a lot of good memories of it being part of our lives,” said William “And now that it’s back on the road again, I mean, it’s just amazing how many more memories will be created.”
The car had been in storage for many years when William decided to bring it back to life. When he finished restoring the vehicle to its former glory, he felt moved to track down the Olson family share this special gift. Finding the Olsons turned out to be quite a challenge, but William felt a tug on his heart to keep searching.
Once he found the family, he invited them to come check out the car once more, and the reunion was nothing shy of heartwarming as both parties shared their own memories of the Roadster.
“You hear a lot of people say, ‘I don’t have the words,’ and right now I don’t really need the words— I’ve got the actual memories right here,” said Brian. “I’m just so thankful for people like William. There’s so much going on, and he just never gave up.”
Brian, who only knew his dad for a few short years, felt his dad in that car, and got to lay his hands on the steering wheel as he wore his dad’s wedding ring, which now serves as his own.
“I’ve been touching the steering wheel and just knowing Dad had- his hands right here— It’s so incredible,” said Brian.
Although his time on earth was limited, Jerry’s legacy lives on in the hearts of his family and, of course, in the memories associated with this remarkable car.