Photo by Luis Gamez ’15 | Fr. Harry “Dutch” Olivier hands out ice cream sandwiches to Loyola Academy scholars at break Sept. 4, 2012 to celebrate his 85th birthday.
2 years after his death, community members look back at surrounding days, ‘Dutch’s’ impact on campus
By Anthony Cardellini ’17
The Rev. Harry “Dutch” Olivier, S.J. died Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at the age of 88.
He was a Jesuit for 71 years and a member of the Brophy faculty for 28 years.
A second gym opened this January, nicknamed “The Dutch” in honor of Fr. Olivier, who was a team chaplain and sports fan. The Jesuit priest was also a fan of all student activities and his presence was felt in programs like retreats and Loyola Project.
Almost two years after his death, Fr. Olivier’s influence on campus is still apparent to students and especially faculty.
In this oral history, students, teachers and administrators share their memories about the days surrounding Fr. Olivier’s death.
‘Don’t make a fuss of me’
Devin McManimon McNally ’17: He would do most of the noonday masses in Brophy Chapel, so that was really my first encounter with Fr. Olivier. Then I started seeing him around … I almost got this idea in my head that he was both a figurehead of Brophy but also a friend to all the Brophy students.
Mr. Jim Grindey, Religious Studies department chair: About a few months [before he died] I was in the Chapel and I was praying, I was bringing my Ignatian Workout kids in. And I remember in the back of the sacristy I went to turn the lights on and I saw Fr. Olivier sitting there praying with his breviary with his eyes closed and he was just in peace, you know?
Mr. Chad Unrein: Some time before [he died] I was in my classroom late afternoon and I was just stretching, walking around and I looked out there and saw Fr. Olivier praying out by the statue. I was so moved by the scene in front of me that I took a picture of it with my iPad.
Mrs. Sue Hornbeck, assistant to the assistant principal for ministry: Leading up to [his death], because I would sit across from him, he was getting more tired, he would take a little nap during sixth period. The first time he took a nap during sixth period I was a little worried. And I think he had an inkling himself that his days here were ending. He said ‘I put up the good fight and I’m coming home.’ He didn’t want to leave his boys, that’s what he told me. He loved the Brophy boys.
The Rev. Phil Postell, S.J., director of alumni relations: On the previous Sunday [before he died] he was over there to say Mass in the Brophy Chapel. He came over to do a baptism and he could barely climb the stairs. He said that there was a terrific pain in his leg. He walked out on the altar and sat down and did a baptism. Then I came back to the Jesuit residence and I got a phone call from the two people who run the Chapel and they said ‘We have a little problem. Fr. Olivier can’t walk.’ So I got the superior and we drove over and we didn’t know whether to call 911 but he said ‘No, I’m alright.’ Two people carried him into the car and we drove him back over to the Jesuit house and we carried him into his room and we put him on his bed and he sat there and he said ‘Don’t make a fuss of me.’
‘I will forever cherish the fact that I saw him the night before he died’
Mr. Bob Ryan, principal: I received a call from Fr. [Eddie] Reese (former Brophy president) in the morning Saturday and he told me that Fr. Olivier had fallen and that he was going to move to Los Gatos, which is where the Jesuit retirement center is. And initially he said he was going to move on Tuesday and I think he called me on Saturday. And so we went back and forth on that day about those details, and I was trying to figure out a way for the faculty to get a chance to see him, and they were trying to keep the news quiet because we didn’t want a thousand people stopping by the house to see him because he was not well, he was sick.
Mr. Unrein: I was at home and it was an email not that he had passed away but there was an email from Mr. Ryan that immediately, the next day, he was going to Los Gatos, which is where the Jesuit retirement center is. And I remember I was very upset because I loved him and I wasn’t going to get a chance to say goodbye.
Fr. Postell: Sunday he got a few visitors to come in and then the next day Fr. [Bill] Muller (former Jesuit community superior) and I took him to the doctor to evaluate his foot and the doctor said ‘There’s nothing wrong with your foot. I examined it and it’s fine.’ So we got a wheelchair and rolled him back on Monday. In the course of the next two or three days he was in his room, we brought him food.
Mr. Ryan: I remember I went to a spring training game [a day before his death] with my family and while we were there I was getting updates, and they were saying he was going to leave in the morning on a plane. That evening I went home for dinner and I asked him if he was going to be well enough for me to stop by and visit, and he said ‘Yeah, come on by.’ So I went down that evening and I told my wife, I said, ‘Why don’t you put the girls in the car and follow me and I’ll go in and see him and if he’s well enough I want you to bring the girls in to come and say goodbye,’ because we just thought he was going to move to California for retirement. So I went in to see him and then I brought my daughters in and they gave him a hug and talked to him for a minute and then they left and I stayed behind at the Jesuit residence for a couple of hours and was talking with the Jesuits and spent a lot of time with Fr. Olivier. This is eight o’clock on March 16, he died on March 17. So this is the day before he died. So I stayed at the residence until 10 or 11 and really we were all sitting out on the patio—Ms. [Adria] Renke was there, Mrs. [Kendra] Krause, and the Jesuits—and we were just telling stories about Fr. Olivier and we were expecting that that next morning he was going to go to California.
‘I remember just being in total disbelief, the man seemed immortal to me’
Fr. Postell: Late [March 16] he began to complain about having trouble breathing. We called 911, they came and got him and took him over to St. Joe’s. And two or three of us were there and we talked to him and assured him that we wouldn’t let him go and we wouldn’t leave him and he died sometime in the middle of the night. Everybody blessed him, all of the priests there gave him a blessing, the Sacrament of the Sick.
Mr. Bob Ryan: I went home and I woke up at 5:30 or 6 and there was a text from Fr. Reese that he had died that night. So I came in and helped think through what we were going to do that day. We told the faculty before school and then emails went out to the community letting them know about his death. And then I kind of helped think through how we would honor him and the funeral and all that kind of stuff. I will forever cherish the fact that I saw him the night before he died and my daughters got to see him and say goodbye. They loved him and he was really good to them.
Mr. Unrein: Early the next morning I received that devastating news and things kind of made sense to me why everything was so rushed. That tempered my anger a little bit and then it was quickly replaced with tragic sadness.
Mr. Grindey: I remember hearing about it when I came to work. The vivid memory I have is I felt sad, but in the teachers’ lounge at break Fr. Olivier was always there. He was always asking people how they were doing and cracking jokes and he was always bantering with me about my weight, and asking about my wife and kids, and what I distinctly remember is an absence in the teachers’ lounge with him not there.
Mr. Paul Fisko, assistant principal for ministry: I walked in [the Student Activity Center] and said ‘Dutch died last night.’ And [Mrs. Hornbeck] hadn’t heard yet and it was early in the morning.
Mrs. Hornbeck: So I heard from Mr. Fisko. It was the Holy Spirit working: when I came in that morning and started taking messages off my phone, the very first one was from Fr. Olivier. Fr. Olivier spent a lot of time his last day in the hospital making calls, saying goodbye to people and giving good wishes, and he had called to say what a great pleasure it had been that he and I had been able to spend all this time together. And he wanted to wish our son, who was going to get married that June, happiness on his wedding and always. So I took that, very emotional and I hung up, and I take the second call and it’s Fr. Olivier again. And it’s so typical of Fr. Olivier, always thinking of others first, he lived by that. ‘God is first, others are second, I am third.’ And he truly, truly believed in that. And what he wanted me to do was please call because he was going to have a meeting with a young man not from Brophy and he wanted me to go on his planner and get the phone number and call this young man to let him that know he would not be able to keep his appointments.
Mr. Fisko: The message from Dutch—she was inconsolable.
Mr. Ryan: [Telling the faculty] was really moving. I think an email went out the day before letting people know that he was going to California. I can’t remember if Fr. Reese had emailed the faculty beforehand. But it was really moving. Fr. Reese didn’t say a whole lot, I mean he was emotional. He talked about being there when Fr. Olivier died, he talked about what happened. It was emotional, I think people were stunned.
Carter Santini ’15: I walked into Student Council and asked if we could put on music. Chris Ashton ’15 said it’s not the day for it and when I asked Taylor Wood ’15 why everyone seemed so down, he let me know. I remember just being in total disbelief, the man seemed immortal to me.
McManimon McNally: I remember I walked into Brophy Hall and saw that everyone was a little sad. I think it was during prayer that morning when they said, ‘For the rest and repose of the soul of Fr. Olivier.’ That’s when it finally dawned on me that he had passed. I think there was a quick sense of denial, but then I saw that a lot of the teachers were very upset.
Mr. Grindey: So after he had died and I went into the Chapel and that image of him came up, of him just quietly sitting there with his breviary in silence and in prayer.
McManimon McNally: It seemed that in the weeks afterward everyone was just a little nicer and a little more understanding. I remember standing [at the honor guard of students at Fr. Olivier’s funeral]. Everyone was talking, but the minute that they started moving Fr. Olivier everyone went silent. It was kind of awe-inspiring.
Mr. Unrein: I remember thinking ‘How are we every going to overcome this?’ I couldn’t imagine anyone ever filling his shoes. The mood on campus for people that knew him was he was literally part of Brophy’s identity in terms of how we imagine how we want our students today, how we teach.
Santini: Afterwards, at least my class was brought noticeably closer together. We were the last class that got to know him all four years, and I think it just hit us all that we didn’t have much time left together after that point. We were kinder, but I think we were all just more loving to each other. Started to think of ourselves as a family.
Mr. Ryan: I asked him when I was in there the last time I saw him, ‘What do you want me to tell the faculty, what do you want me to tell everybody?’ and he said ‘Keep smiling.’ He was quite a guy. Somebody said that most people they’d known that had died they prayed for, but he was the first person they ever prayed to.