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No Such Thing as a Stranger

No Such Thing as a Stranger

Owen Olson, at 94 years old, is a gregarious guy. Sit with him awhile—preferably, in his favorite spot in the Union City Home lobby—and he’ll joke about wearing his shirt untucked in the latest fashion, and his envy for John Wayne’s big strong teeth. He’ll tell you stories about growing up in New York City, thinking that the world began and ended at the city limits. He’ll tell you about joining the Navy, and traveling the globe.

He sometimes has trouble recalling what year it is, remembering names, or differentiating memories from movies. But when he talks about his life lessons, he speaks with clarity and passion. He insists on the innate goodness of mankind, and the importance of friendship. He has already self-published one book on the wartime experiences that taught him this, and says he’s working on another.

“I’m trying to get the story out that it’s all one world,” he says. “There is no such thing as a stranger. We’re all composed of the same elements. We all want to be friendly.”

This same message is at the heart of how Olson came to live at the Masonic Home. A few years ago, Olson was hospitalized with head injuries and confusion after a bad fall. He had been living alone, with no family left to care for him. Without any next of kin, the hospital contacted the fraternity. Masonic Outreach Services (MOS) and Olson’s lodge, Yosemite Lodge No. 99 in Merced, rushed to help. MOS coordinated services to transition Olson out of the hospital, and Ben Davis, a past master and one of Olson’s lodge brothers, signed on as power of attorney. MOS and Davis talked to Olson about finding a safer living situation, and when Olson decided he wanted to move into the Masonic Home at Union City, they worked together to make it so.

Olson has now lived at the Home about three years. In that time, MOS and Davis have seen him thrive. Despite moderate dementia, he is in excellent physical condition, and something of a ham with the staff. Every day, he is able to enjoy the friendships and connections that he cherishes.

“This is just wonderful here,” he says. “Everybody is so joined together. Health and happiness—and togetherness.”

Member donations to the Annual Fund have made it all possible, from MOS’ initial care management to the Masonic Homes’ facilities and staff that provide Olson’s quality of life and community today. Thanks to member support, the fraternity has stepped up and proven Olson’s message of togetherness.

“It’s a marvelous thing for people to be interested in others, instead of themselves,” Olson says. “I think that anybody who really gets into Masonry is going to have that feeling.”

To learn more about the Masonic Homes of California and Masonic Outreach Services, visit masonichome.org.

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