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Memorials: Claremont Monthly Meeting

Faith Whitaker Olson

Date of birth

June 1, 1925*

Date of death

July 1, 2012*


Claremont Monthly Meeting
*Date(s) of birth and/or death approximate

Memorial minute

Faith Olson, member of Claremont (CA) Monthly Meeting, was the youngest of her parents' six children (including an adopted Chinese sister) and was born on June 20, 1925 in Lintsing, Shantung, China where she spent the first five years of her life (speaking mostly Chinese). Her parents, Robert Burdette Whitaker and Louise Gulick Whitaker, were medical missionaries. Faith went again to China with her family during her high school years, and in 1947 graduated from Oberlin College, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother. Subsequently, she went to nursing school, after which she lived for several years in the San Francisco Bay Area.

From 1952-57, she served as a missionary in Korea, where she worked as a Lab Technician in a hospital used by the missionaries serving there, some of whom she later knew at Pilgrim Place in Claremont after she was retired. She continued her work as a Medical Lab Technologist through the early 1990s.

She married Robert Allen ("Bob") Olson, an accomplished amateur pianist and composer, on July 4, 1963 in Los Angeles. As older-than-usual parents, they joyously welcomed the birth of their son, Nels, in 1966. Bob's piano playing filled their household with joy on a daily basis. He was sight-impaired and among the jobs he held, supported by Faith, was management of courthouse food concessions, a position reserved in some jurisdictions for the sight impaired. The Olsons lived in several communities in Southern California and Oregon until Bob’s death in 1990.

In the 1970s and 80s, Faith was a member of the Pacific Ackworth Friends Meeting in the Temple City, CA area. She became friends with John and Alice Way, founders of the Pacific Ackworth Friends School (in those years a K-8 school), which Nels felt fortunate to attend from 5th through 8th grade. During this period, Faith became active in RESULTS, a group that lobbies for legislation on hunger issues, and she remained active in this work for many years, joined by numerous friends, both when she lived in Oregon and later in Claremont.

Faith retired to Mount San Antonio Gardens in Pomona/Claremont in 1996, where she began attending Claremont Friends Meeting, occasionally accompanied by her sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Ed Riggs, who lived, until their deaths, nearby at Pilgrim Place in Claremont. Faith quickly became active with Claremont Friends as well as with community causes, especially the Council of Churches Hunger Project. She also aided the Braille Institute doing transcription for the blind. One of her personal joys was playing her small organ.

Faith was welcomed into membership of Claremont Meeting on July 29, 1999 and she continued her service on the Fellowship, Discussion, Peace and Social Order, and/or Library committees (usually on more than one committee each year!) until advancing age curtailed her activities with Friends. Her gentle spirit and quiet presence have been greatly missed in recent years as health issues prevented her attendance at meeting for worship.

She died comfortably in her sleep on July 8, 2012 with Nels at  her side, and shortly thereafter Friends participated in a memorial gathering at Oak Tree Lodge, her most recent residence at Mount San Antonio Gardens. She is survived by her son and his wife, Ellen Lewis, of Berkeley, CA and by cousins, nieces and nephews widely scattered across the United States.