A tribute: John Olander's passion for travel, sports, politics, life

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
March 12, 2002
More than a decade ago, a little-known Vicksburg contractor named Kirk Fordice, who was mulling a run for Mississippi governor, visited an east Mississippi friend whose counsel he trusted.
The man he sought out was Carl John Olander Sr., an asphalt paving contractor and Meridian civic leader, who offered some frank advice for the political novice.
Returns from election night 1991 showed that underdog Fordice had won, thanks at least in part to early yet crucial political support from friends like Olander. The plain-spoken Fordice would be re-elected in 1995, and would preside over Mississippi's economic expansion in the 1990s.
Olander was later appointed by Fordice to the Pat Harrison Waterway District's board of directors, where he served a four-year term before being selected by Lauderdale County supervisors for a second term.
Family members say John Olander's life was filled with many passions his religion, Meridian-based Mid-State Paving Co., sports, a variety of local civic, cultural and educational endeavors, and Masonic organizations. He was a Master Mason and Shriner.
Olander, 74, a native of Yazoo City, died early Saturday in Melbourne, Fla., as he and Frances were pursuing another of those passions Major League Baseball's annual ritual of spring training. They had watched the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins at work in nearby Viera, Fla.
Since his retirement in 1989, Olander and his wife developed a love of packing up and hauling an AirStream trailer to the far corners of North America for trips that could last two or three months.
The Olanders were active participants in the Wally Byam National Caravan Club and once hosted more than 200 fellow travelers in Meridian. Olander had been working on another similar venture for the group in Meridian in January 2003 and Frances said she will make sure the commitment is kept.
John and Frances Olander celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August, and "we were really looking forward to our 51st," Frances said. Despite serious medical problems over the past year, John "never gave up hope. He tried to see the best in everybody. He never saw a fault in anybody," she said. "He was an encourager."
Their daughter, Sally Wilkinson, who lives in Meridian, said despite his many civic and charitable responsibilities, including years spent on the board of Mississippi College, service with the state and national asphalt paving associations and as a director of the Choctaw Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, family always came first with her father.
Longtime friend Hoot Gipson of Meridian echoed the sentiment. Gipson and his family lived on the same Meridian cul-de-sac with the Olanders while their children were growing up.

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