Bernard Neil Olsen, known to his family and friends as Neil, died June 18, 2019, at French Hospital. He passed away unexpectedly from complications encountered during a routine heart procedure just one day shy of his 54th wedding anniversary. He was 83 and had resided in Paso Robles over 60 years.
Born in 1936 to Oscar and Theresa (Kelley) Olsen, Neil was their youngest child and only surviving son. His grandparents, Nils and Ellen Olsen, emigrated from Norway in 1886 and were one of five pioneer families in the Norwegian Colony in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Despite the Depression, his childhood was filled with adventure and excitement. He was surrounded by his large, extended (Conejo) Borchard family and Kelley clan, where almost everyone he knew was a cousin. Farming and ranching were the way of life. Neil enjoyed farming from a very young age and always had a flock of sheep to tend. They also grew apricots and raised grain on present-day Olsen Road. Neil showed an affinity for machinery and engineering from an early age. He attended grammar school in a two-room schoolhouse and was always called upon by his teachers at Santa Rosa Valley School in Moorpark to run the mimeograph machine and film projector. At the age of 4, his grandfather Nils died, and Neil inherited a rental property in Moorpark. Thus began a lifelong appreciation for real estate.
Neil left the Norwegian Colony in 1954 to study Mechanized Agriculture at Cal Poly SLO. He was the first person in his family to attend college. Around that time, his parents decided to escape the encroaching sprawl of Los Angeles and retire to a new ranch in Paso Robles. Upon graduating in 1959, he was drafted into the Army and stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he spent the next two years. Upon returning to Paso Robles, he began farming with his father on the east side where he remained for 60 years. Together they raised various crops and Neil leased additional ground to grow sugar beets, oat hay, barley and livestock. Farmers being natural risk takers, he even owned one of the first dryland vineyards in the Oak Flat area where he and Gisela later worked side by side tending the vines. He started playing cards with other entrepreneuring young men from Paso Robles while they served in the Army Reserve. Monday Night Card Party with good friends remained a staple in his life right up to the end.
He met his beloved Gisela in 1964 at a Christmas dinner party in Paso Robles while she was visiting family. They married six months later — the first couple to be married in the new Saint Rose Catholic Church. They settled into a new house on the Paso Robles Golf Course where they welcomed three beautiful children and built a life together. Neil was a wonderful, patient father who taught his children everything important to live a fulfilling life. In 1978, they built their dream home on the ranch. In the years that followed, they enjoyed entertaining friends and spoiling their grandkids. Neil and Gisela traveled the world together. His favorite trip was to his ancestral homeland, where they visited with relatives who still own and farm their family land in the fjords of Norway.
Neil got his real estate license in 1976 and worked until his retirement in 2000. He also managed ranch and vineyard properties for his real estate clients. He had a hand in the establishment of numerous ranches and vineyards of the area. Never one to stay still, he enjoyed raising and training Border Collies for his flock of sheep. He taught his grandchildren to be good stewards of the land and caretakers of animals. He could fix anything with a little baling wire and was an inventor in his own right. He loved working in his vegetable garden and keeping chickens right up to the day he died. He always whistled while he worked.
Neil’s children and grandchildren learned the importance of civic involvement within the community by his example. He was a true pillar in the community. He was a lifelong, active member of numerous organizations including Paso Robles Rotary (Past President), SLO County Farm Bureau (Past President), PR Trail Ride, and PR Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, he served on the PR Board of Realtors, PR Cemetery Board, Sheriff’s Advisory Committee, and County Grand Jury. He was a proud member and supporter of the Saint Rose Church Community, Knights of Columbus, Boy Scout Troop 60, and JayCees.
He is survived by his loving wife Gisela, sister Mary Olsen Rydberg of Oxnard, children Bernard (Jeannie), Ingrid McRoberts (Kirk), and Eric, and grandchildren Nicholas, Katelyn, Matthew, Emily, Andrew, Fallon, and Turner Olsen, and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and relatives. He was preceded in death by his parents, Oscar and Theresa Olsen, sisters Arthelia Honerkamp and Jean Thompson, an infant brother, and far too many poker buddies.
Recitation of the Holy Rosary will take place Monday, July 1, 7 p.m., at Saint Rose Catholic Church. Funeral Mass will be celebrated Tuesday, July 2, 10 a.m., at Saint Rose Catholic Church, 820 Creston Road, followed by burial at Paso Robles District Cemetery. Luncheon reception at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom immediately following burial.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Paso Robles Scout House Foundation at P.O. Box 3828, Paso Robles, CA 93447 (EIN#81-3274738)
Grandpa, we are heartbroken at your sudden passing and know our lives can never be the same. You are forever in our hearts and we will always remember your humor and wisdom.