By Rev. Dr. Dan Geeding and Rev. Ned Wicker
On Wednesday, December 15, Rev. Dwain Olson passed away peacefully, following a visit from his pastor and celebrating communion. The world does not know Dwain Olson, but we can assure you that a very loving and compassionate God knows all about him. You see Dwain was the inspiration for the web sites “drug-addiction-support.org” and “alcoholism-support.org,” and the internet audio program “Recovery Now.”
With little financial support or fanfare, Dwain established the Pastoral Care Department at Waukesha (WI) Memorial Hospital (WMH) in the mid 1980’s. He was the founding chaplain for the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department and the Waukesha Police Department. Meanwhile, in 1985, Dwain was also the founding pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Waukesha, where he served until retiring from church ministry in 1991. But Dwain did not retire from ministry.
His passion was for addict/alcoholics, as he was also a recovering alcoholic. He had created a small group lecture for patients at the Lawrence Center, which was Waukesha Memorial’s drug treatment facility until about 18 months ago when financial considerations forced the closing of the center. For thousands of recovering addict/alcoholics over the years, Dwain was their pastor and friend. Several years ago, after Dwain’s retirement from his recovery ministry, at the invitation of Dan Geeding, Ned Wicker took over the lectures. It was the beginning of a fascinating journey.
Dwain had taken excerpts from The Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous and created his own lecture, adding his commentary to the various chapters of the book. We opened up a file of lecture notes, photo copies of pages with notes and other materials that Dwain had shared when he stepped down. Some notes were scratched in the margins of pages, while others were scribbled in between lines. Taking these bits and pieces of information, along with his lecture notes, we wrote a new information package for Lawrence Center patients, which included not only the AA information, but Dwain’s commentary. We had no intention of reinventing the wheel, especially because Dwain had a wonderful way of expression and it was obvious he loved the patients. We were merely trying to follow his lead. The Dwain Olson lecture centered on the spirituality of 12 Step Recovery and was very much in keeping with the original AA process. Dwain stayed close to the book and did not try to introduce alternative concepts, but brought in many of his own illustrations and life experiences. His lecture was the basis for a new lecture, which included material we had gathered. Dwain’s notes were fascinating , so the lecture changed. The intent was the same, but the personality was different.
As the original lecture developed into a series of different lectures on all aspects of recovery, the idea for web sites dealing with these subject came about, thus the first few pages of drug-addiction-support.org and alcoholism-support.org were written. Dwain might have retired, but his ideas continued to inspire. A few years ago we took an updated copy of his original lecture and showed him where we went with it and shared with him some of our ideas on how to develop it. He was delighted to receive it and gave us his blessing. The “Recovery Now” audio program came right out of the weekly lectures, as both of us facilitated the group so many times and we both decided that a round table discussion format would work. However, by then Dwain’s health had begun to fail and sadly he was never in as position to be a guest on the show. His words still come out of our mouths and he still inspires us to move the project forward. The web sites have attracted readers and listeners from 167 different countries, so what started as a weekly lecture series in a small drug and alcohol treatment center became something much larger. It all began with Dwain Olson.
Rev. Dr. Dan Geeding is the lead chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. Rev. Ned Wicker is the chaplain at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital.
Rev. Dwain M. OlsonMay 9, 1926 – December 15, 2010