Lois Olson is grateful that military dentists were not very good in 1946. Otherwise she wouldn't have met and fallen madly in love with Irv Olson, who became her husband for the next 68 years.
Lois says they first laid eyes on each other on a cold January day in Moorhead, Minnesota -- a town across the Red River from Fargo, North Dakota. Lois, 18, returned from lunch to the dentist's office where she worked as an assistant. Sitting in the small reception area was Irv, a 21-year-old Marine.
"When I opened the door, I thought this is the handsomest man I'd ever seen," says Lois, 86, of Union City.
Irv was there to have his front tooth capped. He broke it in a fight in a cave with a Japanese soldier during the Battle of Okinawa the previous year. But he waited until he could get leave to see his hometown dentist, because he didn't trust military dentists.
When Irv looked up and saw Lois, he, too, was immediately smitten. He later told Lois that when he was overseas, he thought about the kind of girl he would spend his life with and what she would look like. "He couldn't believe it when I came into that room that January day. I was that girl!"
They went out every night for the rest of his leave, usually hitting the Gopher Grill, where the wife's owner greeted them with an organ rendition of "Lamplighter's Serenade."
The reason they never crossed paths before in Moorhead, a town of 15,000, was that they had gone to different high schools. And Irv was older than the high school boys Lois usually dated. "Here was this man," she says.
They married in June 1946, overcoming what they jokingly called their "religious differences." Lois was Norwegian Lutheran; Irv, Swedish. After Irv earned his bachelor's degree in architectural engineering in Fargo, they raised their three kids, first in Illinois and then in the Bay Area, where they came in the 1960s to escape the brutal Midwestern winters. Irv died on March 10 from kidney failure after three months in the hospital. Lois was at his side the entire time. One evening, a janitor walked by his room, saw the two together and said to their daughter, Heidi Olson: "I hope someday I find someone who will look at me with that much love."
A few days after Irv's death, Lois sent out a letter to all their family and friends: "He has given me a wonderful life," she wrote. "He's been my best friend, my love, my everything ... and now I must find my way on the next path alone until we can be together again."
-- Martha Ross, Staff
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