Richard Olson’s family and friends believed his cause of death would have been from the colon cancer he was diagnosed with nearly four years ago.
The call Paul Olson, 44, received was that his father died in a house fire. Richard Olson, 68, was likely too weak to walk out. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office found no signs of suspicious activity.
“I am more concerned about that he might have sat there and watched the fire,” Paul Olson said. “I have a hard time believing he wasn’t awake and watching it. That is just my biggest fear. The house is what it is. At the end of the day, it was monetary stuff that was lost.”
The Gold Bar man is survived by two siblings, two children, including Paul Olson, and two grandchildren. He was well known for his high-end expert cabinetry work, and occasionally thorny persona. He was loyal to those he loved, and those who loved him.
By the time Snohomish County Fire District 26 responders were at the scene around 9 p.m. Monday, March 20, the house on May Creek Road was fully involved. Flames collapsed the roof within 10 minutes of their arrival.
“He was in there at the time; he had had a church group there, and they left,” Paul Olson said. “They determined the fire started a half-hour after they left. He would have never done it (started the fire) on purpose. There were pictures of my military stuff in there. He was so proud to leave the house to me.”
Only the attached garage housing Richard Olson’s 1984 Mercedes-Benz still stood once the fire was extinguished. The favored vehicle is meant for Paul Olson.
Paul Olson has been living in Las Vegas for four years. He said for a few of those he flew back to visit his father every other month during treatment. He said he noticed his father looked more deteriorated recently, and had Stage 4 colon cancer when he died.
Richard Olson’s longtime friend and girlfriend, Pamela Lacasse, 67, of Sultan said he went through chemotherapy and took medications. She said he would regularly drive himself to receive treatment in Monroe or Everett, and usually refused help.
“He wouldn’t let me drive him; he said no, he would,” Lacasse said. “He was an independent kind of person. He just he didn’t like to really lean on other people. He’d do it himself, but if you needed help, he was there for you.”
The two met through a dating site about 10 years ago, Lacasse said. For most of those they decided to stay friends. A few years ago Richard Olson realized he felt strongly for Lacasse.
The couple spent many holiday’s at Lacasse’s family gatherings. She said he got along well with her mother. She said she had always liked his “different kind of sense of humor.”
Richard Olson had an impressive movie collection, and specifically sought out good action-adventure films, Lacasse said. Richard Olson took a bad fall a few weeks ago, which weakened him. They spent his birthday on March 14 watching movies. He was hardly eating by that time, she said.
Richard Olson had a very sweet golden retriever, Baby, who he adored, and had since she was a puppy, Lacasse said. The pet died about six months ago. He’d also owned a cat whose disappearance he grieved, and goats and geese in his younger days, she said.
“He took care of that dog so good,” she said. “He let her come in the house. He cleaned up after her. He had her to the vet, which was a job because if she thought he was taking her to the vet, she’d hide. He couldn’t get her in the car. She was terrible.”
Richard Olson “was kind of a recluse, but he still had a lot of friends,” Lacasse said. Steve Fayden was one of them. The two had worked together in the 1980s and 1990s, for about 15 years at the University of Washington.
Paul Olson, Lacasse and Fayden all noted Richard Olson’s esteemed woodwork. His home was also headquarters for his business, RDO Cabinets & Millwork.
“That house meant everything to that man,” Lacasse said. “He wanted his son to have that house. It was like he was leaving it to Paul. He did work in that house himself. He got a beautiful wood ceiling he put in, he built cabinets.”
Richard Olson had completed an apprenticeship at the university, and had gone on to become “one of the best instructors” for the same course, Fayden said. He said the two of them became very close over the years.
“As far as I am concerned, he was a good guy,” Fayden said. “He was very thoughtful, caring, a guy that had great honor and respect for the people that he really cared for.”
Paul Olson flew up to Washington the day after his father died. About a week later he returned home, and said he is still waiting on the death certificate from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. He said without the document he isn’t able to get to work on settling the property, belongings or funeral plans.