Walter J. “Duke” Olson III, who approached life and business with wisdom and humor, died Tuesday, November, 5, 2019, at St. Dominic Memorial Hospital. He was 77.
While Walt made great strides in the world of finance, his first and primary devotion was to his wife of 50 years, Shirley F. Olson, and her first and primary devotion was to Walt.
Born in San Francisco, the son of the late Vincent and Gloria Parker Driver was reared in a military family, which moved frequently to posts around the United States and the world. He attended elementary school in Japan.
Following his high school graduation in Verdun, France, he enlisted in the U. S. Army and served in the famous 101st Airborne Division.
After his discharge, he enrolled at Mississippi State University, drawn to the school by a family connection, Col. John Weir Thames, head of the Amy ROTC at State, who was a longtime family friend from their days in France.
Pursuing a degree in business, Walt worked as manager of State’s winning baseball team under Coach Gregory, living for a time under the football stadium. He often joked that he didn’t know if his room was heated or cooled, because he had just come out of the Army. Walt was known for his work with team members and for his diligent work on the baseball field itself.
It was at State that he met Shirley in a Speech class. When Walt walked in the room on the first day, she turned to a friend and said, “That’s him.” They were married in the Chapel of Memories there on a Friday the 13th in 1969, because that was the only date they could book the chapel.
Walt continued his academic life, earning an MBA from Mississippi College.
As a stockbroker and later as Vice President and Chief Investment Officer of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company, Walt became widely recognized in the financial services community for his keen knowledge of investments, especially in international markets.
“Without trying, Walt commanded attention in the room. He was gifted, not only with intelligence, but with wisdom. His understanding of fixed-income investments was unmatched,” said one longtime finance colleague. “As a mentor and friend, Walt challenged me at every turn, not critically, but as a caring teacher with a student.”
Following his retirement in 2007, he and Shirley enjoyed traveling throughout the world and spending time on the Alabama Gulf Coast with their feline companions. He maintained his interest in financial markets and was a sought-after advisor locally and nationally.
Walt was a generous and gracious humanitarian, privately and usually anonymously, never seeking recognition.
Walt took an interest in everything and everybody. Although he dealt daily with corporate executives and professionals, he was “at home” with persons at every rung of the economic ladder.
Even when facing the most challenging circumstances, he kept an even keel.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his beloved grandmother and grandfather, Nancy and “Bamp” Parker; Shirley’s grandmother, “Mama Sadie,” whom he loved as his own; and by Angel, his devoted 20-year feline friend.
He leaves his wife Shirley; daughter, Jessica; granddaughter, Lexi; a brother, Bill Driver; nephews, Brian and Shawn; other relatives; devoted friends and “almost family” Peggy Smith and Grace McJordan; Hunter, his most recent feline companion; and a host of friends drawn to him by his droll wit and his wisdom.
A private service is planned.
The family expresses deep appreciation in behalf of Walt to Dr. Ralph Sulser and to Dr. Harper Stone.
Because of State’s importance in Walt’s personal and professional life, memorials may be sent to the Walter J. “Duke” Olson III Endowment Scholarship Fund through the Mississippi State University Foundation, Post Office Box 6149, Mississippi State, MS 39462-6419, www.msufoundation.com; or to the Mississippi Animal Rescue League (MARL), 5221 Greenway Dr Exd, Jackson, MS 39204, the previous home of his two longtime feline friends.