by Christy Juteau, A Rocha’s National Science Director
Stan Olson was the kind of volunteer every non-profit dreams of. He threw himself wholeheartedly into both A Rocha’s conservation work as well as our community life for over ten years before his passing on May 24 from cancer. I had the privilege of working alongside Stan on A Rocha’s Conservation Science team for the past 7 years. Stan heard about us through his friend and colleague, Ted Goshulak, who was on the A Rocha Canada board at the time. Ted suggested that Stan check us out, as he moved into retirement, since we combine two of his greatest passions: faith and creation care. Stan was initially (and naturally) drawn into our bird walks, but very quickly engaged in some of our other activities including shorekeepers, an intertidal survey and amphibian egg mass surveys.
Stan was an incredibly skilled naturalist. He often said, “I’m no scientist” – meaning he didn’t study biological sciences in university – but he was more knowledgeable than many of us “scientists”, due to his meticulous and dedicated self-study. The way he applied himself to learning distinguishing features of dragonflies, birds, plants, and intertidal creatures was amazing. For example, Stan knew more about intertidal worms than anyone I know. Most Shorekeepers were inspired by colourful anenomes or nudibranchs or crabs, but Stan, knowing A Rocha’s Shorekeepers survey site was the long sandy flats of the Little Campbell River estuary, studied up on worms, the dominant creature found in the sandy habitat. Stan was the local expert on the beach – we would all be calling him to come over and look at our worms, so that we could write down something more than just “unknown polychaete”.
Secondly, Stan had genuine enthusiasm for all living things. I remember this one time, going on a bird walk with Stan when he told the interns and community members about the
European Starling. Here was Stan describing its breeding versus non-breeding plumage, how its beak turns from black to yellow during the breeding season. He was not at all dismissive of this bird, despite the fact that it is an invasive species, takes over other birds’ nests and destroys their young — in essence, a bird despised by many! Personally, I find that I have significant bias while birding, showing more excitement when I see an eagle over a crow, or a wood duck over a mallard, but Stan hosted these walks week after week and honestly appreciated each God-created creature. I truly admire this about him.
Finally, Stan was generous. He was so incredibly generous with his time, his talent, his finances, and with himself. He poured out countless hours, driving out from Abbotsford to the Brooksdale Environmental Centre each week, providing binoculars and books, and then more books. His patient instruction and guidance of interns over the years inspired many to explore and learn more about their place in creation.
Stan is so missed in our community for all of these reasons: his knowledge, his care and attention to details, his generosity. But mostly we miss his humble, kind, consistent presence. Many have shared with me since his passing how they have been touched by his kindness and patience and enthusiasm and vulnerability. We look forward to rejoicing with him in the renewed creation.