The informal, California country-style kitchen table of Vicki Olson was a window to who she was.
It’s where she served her gourmet meals, usually incorporating fresh vegetables from her garden. It’s where three generations gathered to roll out the dough to make cappelletti, a Christmas Eve family tradition and a nod to her Italian heritage. Sometimes, the table was covered with arts-and-crafts supplies – paints, markers, paper, glue — as she always seemed to have a kids’ project in the works.
But one thing about her table never changed: Vicki always made room for one more chair.
“My first thought about Vicki was how welcoming she was,” said a longtime family friend. “Welcoming without prejudgment and with great interest in what you were doing with your life.”
Vicki Olson died at her La Cañada Flintridge home July 16 after a lengthy and courageous battle with respiratory disease. She was 77.
Beside her in her last moments were her husband of 56 years, Gary Olson, and their beloved rescue dog, Lacey.
She left an indelible impression on hundreds if not thousands of local children in 25 years as a teacher at Parents and Children’s Preschool in La Cañada, a Girl Scouts leader when her daughters were young, and later as a volunteer docent at Descanso Gardens, where she was an invaluable fixture in the “Acorn Bear” program. Even in her final days, she volunteered at Bailey Center foodbank in Tujunga.
Lovingly improving the lives of children was her unspoken life mission, whether it was her own daughters, Paige and Ashley, her five grandchildren, or countless children in the community and beyond over the decades. She truly put others first.
The Olsons moved from Mar Vista to La Cañada in the mid-1970s, part of a large migration of Latham & Watkins families from the Westside to the Pasadena area. While Gary rose through the ranks to the top of Latham’s corporate law department, Vicki kept everything running at home.
“We shared a mutual love and support system during those years that our husbands worked such long hours for so many years,” said another family friend, the wife of one of Gary’s law partners.
Born Nov. 18, 1944, Vicki Ann Consolino grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas, and had known her husband, Gary, since they were in junior high school. They were high school sweethearts, and their love and devotion to each other and their family served as a great example to their daughters, both of whom raised their families within a few miles of their parents’ home.
Vicki loved pets, and always had one dog, if not two. She had a special spot in her heart for golden retrievers. She was a creature of habit, too, with her favorite coffee — a venti with five shots of decaf espresso over ice — always within reach.
She left notes on paper plates, newspapers, envelopes, any odd scrap of paper. She always had notebooks in her purse for making lists. She went through more Vicks VapoRub than one might think humanly possible. She kept Christmas carols in a binder and brought them out every Christmas Eve, insisting everyone sing. And they did. She decorated the house for every holiday, especially Christmas. Her library of children’s books was unmatched. She smiled not just with her mouth but her eyes.
She loved to spend time with her grandchildren, attend their school and extracurricular events and take them shopping.
Her favorite everyday attire was a pair of leggings and a comfortable tunic top. She wasn’t out to impress anyone. But she did — far more than she knew.
Vicki Olson is survived by her husband, Gary; daughters Paige Farmer (husband: Sam) and Ashley Gish (husband: JJ); grandchildren Thomas and Claire Farmer, and Shelby, Tanner and Addison Gish; brother Ron Consolino (wife: Soheir) and their daughters Serine and Dina.
Gifts to Descanso Gardens can be made in Vicki Olson’s memory by mailing a direct check to Descanso Gardens Development, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011, or online at descansogardens.org/support-us/donate-now. Please indicate that your gift is in memory of Vicki Olson.
A celebration of Vicki’s life will take place Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. at Descanso Gardens.