*This story was originally published in the second quarter issue of the Eagle Eye*
One of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s longest working substitute teachers, Richard Olds, passed on Nov. 19 at the age of 84, causing heartbreak in the MSD community.
Born on June 23, 1933, Olds previously worked as a manager for Sears in the paint department and went into teaching in Connecticut before moving to South Florida and becoming a substitute teacher at MSD for the next 25 years of his life from 1991 to 2016. He also volunteered his weekends teaching Sunday school at his local church.
Olds left behind a loving family including his daughters Nancy Jane Olds and Wendy Olds Curren, grandchildren Daniel and Darrell Brothers David and Ronald Olds along with several nieces and nephews.
Olds’ sister-in-law, Gail Gallagher, is a retired MSD English teacher who remembers that his love for impacting younger generations drove him to continue working in education, even though financially he did not have to.
“Dick missed the students. He was always involved with helping them. Once it is your passion, I think it is something you are born to do forever,” Gallagher said.
After the passing of his late wife, Nancy Olds, on Aug. 7, 2017, Olds never fully recovered emotionally and physically.
“His beloved wife Nancy was the light of his life. They were married for 62 years. She met him when she was working in the summer on Long Island. He was still in the Air Force then. She said she married him because he would not take no for an answer,” Gallagher said. “Dick would always say she was his best friend and soulmate.”
Nancy Olds had her funeral contributions made towards the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity that assists wounded veterans by providing recovery programs, services and events in support of her husband’s veteran past.
Olds touched the lives of many students while reminiscing about his past as a veteran of the Vietnam War. His positive, cheerful attitude towards life was noticed by many students.
“He never failed to come to class with a smile on his face and always asked students how their day was going. His consideration for us as individual students was touching and made us all feel like we had a connection with him,” senior Julia Salomone said.
Despite his war past, Olds was remembered for having an understanding and unique personality.
“Mr. Olds was quite kind and understanding. Unlike your standard substitute teacher, he would vivify our dull days. He would tell accounts of his life and bring joy to the classroom,” senior Elijah Abraham said.
Olds was honored at his memorial service on Sunday, Dec. 16 at the Kraeer Funeral Home and Cremation Center on University Drive in Coral Springs. In lieu of flowers, the family requested contributions made to the Wounded Warrior Project, similarly to Nancy Olds’ ceremony.
Olds’ memory remains in the lives of all the students and faculty he was able to meet, and his legacy as a brave veteran and nurturing teacher goes on.