When I was a senior at Clinton (Iowa) High School, I took a Creative Writing course. It changed my life. The teacher, Gene Olson, was a bright young guy with a sense of humor and big muscles (he could do curls with 150 pounds) and beginning his own writing career that would result in authoring or co-authoring 171 books. But back then he was mostly writing short stories for now-defunct men's magazines. Later he changed his name to Brad Steiger, but I always thought of him as Mr. Olson.
My dad had died two years before then, and suddenly here was a man that I quickly admired, not to take my dad's place, but someone to emulate. He encouraged me as I became Sports Editor and Features Editor for the school's magazine, THE CLINTONIAN. He backed me up when a football coach wanted to have me taken off the paper for writing a critical article about the team. And over the next 50-plus years he was always in my corner, keeping in touch, encouraging, and offering advice.
I am planning a book tour in Iowa in late August, and part of the tour was to stop by and see him and buy him a beer. I won't get that chance now, because Mr. Olson passed away just a couple of weeks ago. But that doesn't mean I can't raise a glass now and then and salute the man. Rest in Peace, Mr. Olson, you were the best.