Los Gatos Obituary: Funny Storyteller, Musician, Golfer Florence Betty Olian Dies

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Florence Betty Olian, June 25, 1915-Jan. 6, 2014. Courtesy Addison Olian
Florence Betty Olian, June 25, 1915-Jan. 6, 2014. Courtesy Addison Olian
  • Deceased's name: Florence Betty Olian
  • Age: 98
  • Date: Jan. 6, 2014

After a wonderful, full and happy life, Florence Betty Olian, 98, formerly of Los Gatos and Saratoga, born June 25, 1915, in St. Louis, MO, passed away peacefully in her home in Laguna Woods, on Jan. 6, 2014.

She died one day shy of her 78th wedding anniversary, surrounded by her loving family. She achieved her life’s wishes, namely, “to leave no stone unturned.”  

In 2013, author A.E. Hotchner’s acclaimed book about “aging with joie de vivre” featured a Florence Olian quotation, “Every morning I see the sun rise over the mountains. I am accepting every wrinkle. I like barbecued ribs, a glass of good wine and listening to opera. I have found that a sense of humor and positive attitude keeps all the sad memories and regrets pushed out of my mind without guilt. And I say live for the moment!” 

Florence was married for 62 years to Addison H. Olian, Sr., who predeceased her by 16 years. In 1961, they moved from St. Louis to Saratoga and eventually Los Gatos above La Hacienda Inn. 

Addison expanded his retail clothing enterprises, launching the GEM stores in several Northern California cities. Their children graduated from Saratoga High School and when the Olians retired they moved to Palm Springs, Malibu and eight years aboard their yacht, Odyssey, in Coronado, CA.  

Addison flourished as an accomplished stone sculptor and Florence as a public speaker, serving as president of Toast/Topic Masters. 

Educated at Washington University, she modeled, played the violin and ukulele, was an award-wining golfer, gardener, avid book-reader, brownie-baker, and joked about being a “knit-wit”–– creating handmade booties and garments which she generously presented to family, friends and perfect strangers.

Having a zest for learning, Florence Olian traveled throughout the world, oil painted, and wrote poems, lyrics, short stories and was paid to write advertising slogans.  

Newspaper columnist Herb Caen often quoted her hand-penned letters and witty e-mails in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Compared to actress Betty White, Florence had twinkling blue eyes, laughed and smiled easily, told hilarious stories, and remained the eternal optimist, lifting anyone’s spirits.

In March, 2013, at age 97, always maintaining her mobility and independence her entire life, she traveled alone from Southern California in order to attend the memorial services for Los Gatos resident Peter S. Carter, a longtime friend of the family.   

Florence is survived by her four children, Patricia (Trish) Tanenbaum (Robert), Jeri Pollyea, Mary Kinzelberg (Jay) and Addison (Buz) Olian, II – of Menlo Park. Grandchildren: David, Lisa (Dean), Jill (Jeffrey), Michelle (Joel) – of Los Gatos, Matthew and Jacob. Great-grandchildren: Madison, Morgan, Rowan, Josh, Parker, Jordy and Sophia. 

Tributes to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 415-977-0360, one of her favorite charities.   

—Submitted by Addison "Buz" Olian

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