November 25, 1923 — October 7, 2017
Roger Dean Olleman blessed the lives of everyone who knew him. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend, and a faithful and enthusiastic servant of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
His wonderful sense of humor and funny songs brought laughter to many.
Although his older sister and brother were born in the Northwest, Roger (Dean) was born in Cornelia, Georgia on November 25, 1923 where, for a short time, his father was teaching the workers in the peach orchards western methods of fruit tree pruning and thinning. His parents were Esther Charlotte (Perkins) Olleman and Faye Erlando Olleman.
His family moved through Fort Meyers, Florida; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Carlinville, Illinois before settling in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago in 1927.
Roger grew up in Maywood, inherited his mother’s love of music, played the flute, skipped two grades and graduated from Proviso High School at 16.
Roger more or less followed his sister Charlotte to Oregon State University. After his freshman year in college, his father’s business fell apart and Roger was forced to take care of himself. He moved from Corvallis to Portland, worked as a dishwasher, then a marine pipefitter in the ship yards, and bought a house with his sister Charlotte.
It was in Portland that Roger met the love of his life, Betty Deutsch, in 1941 at Grant Park Baptist Church. They soon saw a lot of each other as they participated in organizing a college-age fellowship at the church. They enjoyed many games of tennis together (Dean said he especially enjoyed Betty's short tennis skirts!)
Two life-changing events occurred within a year. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 and the Deutsch family moved back to Seattle in the late spring of 1942. That fall Betty enrolled in the University of Washington. In the three years that followed, she earned straight As, majoring in chemistry and graduated cum laude in 1945.
After the Deutsch family moved back to Seattle in 1942, Roger (Dean) made several weekend bus trips between Portland and Seattle. He soon decided that was not a satisfactory way to keep alive a relationship with a very attractive young lady. So he moved to Seattle and also enrolled at the University of Washington.
Initially Roger (Dean) was not taken in the World War II military draft because he was an engineering student. But at the end of his junior year, he did not feel right about this and volunteered. He felt this was his duty. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on Betty’s 20th birthday, July 8 1944.
V.J. Day occurred while he was on board ship in the Pacific. Roger was stationed on Okinawa after the Japanese surrender. Although only a 2nd lieutenant infantry, he was made the supply officer of all three of the Island’s Army supply depots, with responsibility for approving the issue of any equipment issued to any military units.
When Dean’s time was up, the Army tried to get him to stay. However, his dream was to become an engineer. He wanted to finish college and get back to Betty. So he went home and was mustered out in September of 1946.
Several months later, following a game of tennis at Ravenna Park in Seattle, Dean proposed to Betty. The two were married May 24, 1947, in front of the fireplace at Betty’s parents’ home in Seattle. It was a home wedding so that Betty’s invalid grandmother could attend.
This foreshadowed a life devoted to Christ and family. Betty and Dean celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 2012 before Betty’s death later that year.
Roger (Dean) completed his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Washington in June 1948. In September, they moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania so that Roger could do graduate studies at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). They lived in Pittsburgh several years. During this time, Roger earned a Master of Science in metallurgical engineering from Carnegie, and then worked full time for five years at the Westinghouse Research Laboratory while also pursuing a doctorate in metallurgical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Betty worked six years as a research chemist and was proud to have a “Westinghouse dishwasher” (Dean).
They also taught junior high classes at First Presbyterian Church and were counselors at Billy Graham’s Pittsburgh crusade. Esther Jean (Jeannie) was born in July 1954.
After Roger received his Ph.D. in June of 1955, the Ollemans moved to Spokane, Washington where Roger was employed at Kaiser Aluminum’s Department of Metallurgical Research. Roger worked for DMR until the fall of 1959.
During this time, Betty and Dean designed and built their dream home, were advisors to the high school youth group at Opportunity Presbyterian Church and, in 1959, they welcomed Ruth Ellen into the family.
In September of 1959, Roger was hired as an Associate Professor of Engineering at Oregon State University in Corvallis, where he eventually rose to department head. He was known as a demanding but very caring professor, who spent many hours helping his students. Unfortunately, their dream home did not sell until the summer of 1960, so Betty bravely stayed alone in Spokane with a baby and a busy little girl while Dean made bi-weekly weekend round trips between Corvallis and Spokane.
The family moved to Corvallis in the fall of 1960. Mark Charles became part of the family in 1961.
Dean and Betty joined Calvin Presbyterian Church in 1961 and became quite active in the church. Dean was an elder on the Session for many of their 50 years at Calvin and was also instrumental in the building committee and pastoral search committee. Betty was a teacher, a Vacation Bible School Director and a deacon. Together, they served for nine years as advisors to a very active high school youth group.
In 1973, Roger and Betty incorporated Accident and Failure Investigations, starting 30 years of being in the consulting engineering business. AFI grew and in a few years involved four other full-time and a few part-time engineers, and some support personnel.
Roger and Betty were active in the ARC (for families and individuals with Developmental Disabilities) and helped to start and maintain many programs for that community. Also, for roughly six years, Betty and Dean were involved with other Christian parents in developing support for Christian group-home housing for the developmentally disabled. This resulted in the incorporation of an organization called Christian Community of Caring, and then in the creation of a Christian group home for women that was called Faith House. The home successfully operated for three years. It has since been transferred to Home Life, and has been renamed Olleman House.
Dean’s service extended to many other areas. He supported Betty in her work with Christian Education for the Developmentally Disabled. This program was jointly sponsored by a number of Corvallis churches and included weekly Sunday school classes, monthly Christian fellowship nights, an annual week of summer vacation church workshops, and a Christmas Program that continues to this day.
Dean also supported Logos House, an organization dedicated to advancing Christian thought for university students. Dean participated in a mission trip to Eastern Europe and was an enthusiastic supporter of many Christian mission organizations, actively engaging with the individuals on the front lines, and supporting them with words of encouragement, gifts, and prayer.
Family vacations and get-togethers were always a highlight of each year. For over 25 years, the extended family gathered during the summer at Gold Beach for a week of games, miniature golf, croquet, jet boat trips up the Rogue River, etc. etc., and food, conversation, reading and relaxation. Family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, anniversaries and any other excuse have been held whenever possible.
Corvallis was their hometown for 50 years. In 2010, Dean, Betty and Ruth moved to Assumption Village in Portland to be near Jeannie and her family.
Betty left this earth on August 18, 2012. Dean deeply mourned her passing, but maintained a positive attitude of love and service to his Lord. Dean was on the Resident Board at Assumption Village, and at University Park Baptist Church was on the Elder Board and active in the Men’s Bible Study. He also continued his work of supporting many non-profit and Christian organizations up until two weeks before his death.
Roger (Dean) passed away at home on October 7, 2017, of cancer. He had been on hospice since February.
Dean is survived by his children, Jeannie, Ruth, and Mark; Jeannie’s husband Steve Vegdahl; Mark’s wife Colleen; and grandchildren, Philip and Ann Vegdahl, Nathan Vegdahl, Timothy and Hannah Slevin-Vegdahl, Katie Olleman, and Daniel Olleman.
We praise God for the many blessings of having Dean in our lives, and his example of integrity, love and devoted service to Jesus. We mourn our loss, but rejoice for him that he is with his Lord, and reunited with Betty in heaven.
Friends and family are invited to attend a celebration of Dean’s life at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 15 at Calvin United Presbyterian Church in Corvallis. A service will also be held in the chapel at Assumption Village in North Portland at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 14.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made either to Calvin Presbyterian Church in Corvallis or Habitat for Humanity.