Jim came to the midyear in Birmingham a year ago, but he was obviously ill then. He did not come to the 2004 convention because of a heart attack, and he wasn't at the midyear board meeting a few weeks ago.
Jim really gave so much to ACB. As sick as he has been, he went into the office this past January 22 so he could be on the telephone in case the board had questions of him during the discussion of this year's budget. That in and of itself isn't especially noteworthy, until you know that he was there over four hours, in the middle of winter, in Minneapolis, with no heat in the building. And, had we not finished with the budget on Saturday, he was prepared to return to that office, again with no heat, on Sunday morning. And he was too ill to travel to Las Vegas.
There are those who have spent much time criticizing Jim for getting figures out slowly. And yes, they have been slow. However, when Jim issued figures, they were correct, without question. There was no haste makes waste where Jim was concerned.
In the mid-'80s, when ACB was nearly bankrupt, the auditors and the bank were prepared to issue a very unpleasant report concerning our financial condition. The letter written to the board by the bank stated, in no uncertain terms, that they were not calling our notes ONLY because of their faith in Jim Olsen and his accounting ability and integrity. It was a wake-up call for some people on the board at that time, and resulted in some severe tightening of the purse strings.
Most people didn't know that Jim worked nine- and ten-hour days, every day, plus Saturdays. I have called Minneapolis many times at 7:00 and 8:00 at night, and Saturday mornings and Saturday evenings, and found him at work.
Jim is one of the best things that ever happened to ACB, and we are going to miss him more than any of us know at this time.
-- Carla Ruschival
I find it very hard to say very much at this time about what I am feeling about our loss of a great and wonderful friend, Jim Olsen. I know that the shoes that Jim filled will be very hard to fill at least very soon. I met Jim when he started in ACB and grew to love him as a man and a fellow ACB member. As board members, we will have to reach way down in our hearts and minds to try to get the job done. To say that I loved Jim is not enough. ACB will go on, but we must not say "what are we going to do?" we should say, "how are we going to do it?" I tell all of you that I will do my part and more if necessary to keep our great organization moving ahead. Let us all pray for Jim's family, and I mean both of them. We all also need to pray for guidance for ACB and the job that is ahead.
-- Ed Bradley
Jim was a huge help to me when I served as tour coordinator for the ACB convention in Houston. I'll never forget the cell phone snafu that provided Jim and Darren (his office assistant) with about 15 minutes of entertainment. At the very moment that they called me, I bumped my cell phone -- apparently just enough to activate it. Not realizing this had happened, I stuck it back in my pocket and resumed a conversation with my driver about going to Busch Stadium (and who knows what else). As Jim explained later, they started yelling "Mike, Mike" into the phone, but eventually realized it was a lost cause and just sat back and enjoyed themselves! Jim will be sorely missed.
-- Mike Hoenig
What a sad day for all of us who knew Jim, for Jim's family and friends, and for the American Council of the Blind. Jim Olsen was a kind and caring person, a man who always had a smile and a kind word for anyone whose path crossed his. His accounting abilities were legendary among ACB members, and few ever attended conventions without making Jim's acquaintance. But he will be missed, most of all, for his cheerful genuine humanity.
-- Penny Reeder
Penny is right, what a very sad day for Jim's family and many friends and the American Council of the Blind. I didn't get to know Jim perhaps as well as some of you did but I will remember him as a caring individual who loved what he did for ACB. He ran the convention registration office like clockwork, yet he gave credit to all of those who assisted him. He was one of the hardest working people I've ever met but still took time to say hello to you if you ran into him. And oh, how he loved to present those life membership awards. Karyn's and my deepest, heartfelt condolences to Ann and the rest of Jim's family and friends. I truly believe in ACB we are one big family and we've just lost a prominent family member.
-- Ray Campbell
Georgians are very sadden by the passing of such a cornerstone of our organization. Many of our senior members knew Jim very well and respected the dedicated service of this noble man. We send our condolences to the family and all ACB members.
-- Marsha Farrow
Jim provided both guidance and counseling to me as a new tour coordinator. Sometimes he provided a shoulder for me to whine on about venue operators. And sometimes he just provided the friendship that he had given to Denise and I, before tour planning was part of our national convention experience.
I didn't get to meet Ann, but I feel like I know her from the many conversations that Jim and I had when he talked about her. Twice, WCB invited Jim to come to our state and present to our membership, and both times, Jim had last-minute health issues and couldn't come. We would joke sometimes about it; if he wanted to stay well, he would avoid Washington asking him to present to us. He had a wonderful sense of humor. Even when he didn't feel that good, he could laugh at my silly comments. Jim worked for, gave his all and cared about the American Council of the Blind. His work ethic was an example for all of us. So Jim, now you are in Heaven and Saint Peter has a highly qualified guy to help get the books balanced. You were loved by many of us just because, well, you were Jim Olsen. We grin with you as we sound your battle cry, "Go figure."
-- Berl Colley
This is indeed very sad news. Jim Olsen worked so hard for ACB. And while I never had the privilege of knowing him, everything that I'd ever heard about him was positive. A big reason that our conventions have gone so smoothly in the past has been due to the great work of Jim Olsen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. We'll miss him badly.
-- Phil Jones
So many summers I went to ACB convention, and Jim Olsen was the first person to greet me. He would be at the registration table giving out envelopes full of tickets. If anything wasn't to my liking, he'd cheerfully correct it. He was even cheerful when I had made mistakes adding up the totals from the five pages of the registration form. I will miss him.
-- Abby Vincent
Even though we did not get to know Jim until we entered into an agreement to supply canes for the ACB, we learned what a great human being he was and are feeling the loss along with everyone else. We pray his family will remain strong and comforted by the fact that Jim was so well respected and liked by many.
-- Jeff and Tami Carmer
I too would like to express appreciation for Jim Olsen's contributions to our beloved ACB. I am deeply moved by the tribute which President Gray has given. It is in listening and digesting the principles which Chris so adequately described that strengthens our faith in people.
-- David Armijo
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