Maple Ridge loses a trailblazer

Sherman Olson helped Maple Ridge create its network of trails

Sherman Olson left a lasting  legacy.

Sherman Olson left a lasting legacy.

Maple Ridge has lost one of the community’s great leaders with the passing of Sherman Olson.

He was a graduate of UBC, then the Northern Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago in 1951. Olson worked for almost 20 years in a Vancouver practice at Granville and Georgia, then in 1971 come to Maple Ridge to raise his family.

He and his wife Josephine had daughters Julie and Nancy. Julie was born with cerebral palsy, and Olson served as president of the Vancouver Cerebral Palsy Association, and was the founding chairman of the B.C. Neurological Society.

Olson also served as president of the B.C. Association of Optometrists and numerous other professional groups. He was back and forth to Victoria, shepherding legislation that allowed optometrists to enter the Medical Services Plan, so their services would be covered.

He was also a great builder in the equestrian sports, and worked for horse trails.

In the book The Horsemen, co-author Jan White writes: “As a founder of Horse Council B.C., his vision of building a strong, provincial equine body, his commitment to this cause and his dedication and direction as the president for the first 10 years resulted in the strongest and largest of all provincial horse councils in Canada.”

He and partners purchased the Maple Ridge Riding Centre, and operated it as a community resource from 1974 to 1984.

Among his many accomplishments was a national riders relay called the Ride for Canada in 1992, which took four months to cross the country from the Yukon, through B.C. and east to Ottawa, bearing the theme Expression of Unity, Pride and Love for our Country. He concluded the ride on Parliament Hill, in the presence of the Queen, and later received a Governor General’s Award.

He was also the founding president of Trail B.C., which he started to help recreational riders build, map and maintain trails in the province.

His home community was the main beneficiary of Olson’s leadership skills. He served on the hospital board and the hospital foundation, the chamber of commerce, arts council, Maple Ridge community foundation and the economic advisory council. In 2001, he organized the first Thomas Haney Days festival.

“He touched so many lives, and made a difference,” said his daughter Nancy Olson-Beaulieu. “He had a full life and no regrets. There was nothing on his bucket list, he told me.”

Among his many honours, Olson was Maple Ridge’s Business Person of the Year, Horse Person of the year, and received the hospital foundation’s president’s award, as well as the highest honour from the B.C. Association of Optometrists.

His colleagues in the latter association referred to him as “The Father of Optometry.”

Each year, Olson would give a speech to welcome new optometrists to B.C., and that was what he was about to do in his last days. Olson was at the annual general meeting for the college of optometry, and was to speak the next day. Staying at the Metropolitan Hotel in Vancouver on June 9, he passed away in his sleep.

He was 85.