Gerry Olde was incredibly competitive, never met a stranger, very generous and a huge Broncos fan.
He was a great family man, a savvy businessman and an expert golfer, always with a smile on his face and piercing light blue eyes that let you know he was listening to you.
Gerry died on Dec. 12, 2021, at the age of 96. He was one of four generations of his family to own the oldest business in Evergreen — Olde’s Garage. Per his wishes, no memorial is planned.
“He was such a great guy,” said lifelong friend Jimmy Stevens. “He was one of the most wonderful people I ever met.”
Gerry’s children, Larry and Rick Olde and Kate Porter, are proud that because they still live in Evergreen, Gerry remained in his home and independent until he died. The siblings had a routine to check on him several times a day to make sure he was OK.
“Dad couldn’t physically do everything anymore, but he was mentally sharp,” Kate said. “He loved being with people. We were really lucky.”
The garage’s 100th anniversary party in September was a great chance for Gerry to be at the business he loved his entire life and to talk with people.
“I was amazed at the number of people who came,” Kate said. “In my mind, that was his last party. He did love life.”
Gerry was born March 23, 1925, four years after his dad Herman opened the gas station in downtown Evergreen. The station also became a general store and a sporting goods store, one of the few businesses open year-round in Evergreen.
Gerry attended East High School in part because his parents felt he would get a better education there. That’s because, according to Rick, Gerry’s parents were both accomplished musicians, and Gerry didn’t inherit that acumen. Yet, he received high marks in his elementary school music class, which led his parents to believe that he should go to school elsewhere.
Gerry met Lois at East High School, and they married in 1942 before Gerry served in the Army during World War II, stationed in the Philippines.
It’s an Olde tradition that family members start working at the garage at age 13, and they start at the bottom: cleaning bathrooms, mopping and sweeping the garage. In a 2019 interview with the Canyon Courier, Kate and Gerry remember checking tires and washing car windows, too.
In fact, Gerry reminisced about when he first started working there, his dad wouldn’t let him talk with customers other than exchanging pleasantries. Herman Olde knew everyone in town, many of whom were ranchers.
“My dad said they don’t want to talk to kids,” Gerry explained.
Gerry ran Olde’s Garage, which had several names over the years, until he retired in 1985. The garage moved from downtown Evergreen to its present location on Evergreen Parkway in 1962.
According to Just Around Here, “In the heyday of Troutdale in the Pines (resort), Gerry washed cars for the likes of Ethel Merman and other celebrities. Wearing rubber aprons and high boots, he’d do the detail work required of the spoke wheels and whitewalls on the fancy cars. (Gerry) remembered that the garage was much in demand, as there were lots of mechanical problems in the early automobiles. The radiators had to be flushed out because bugs and grasshoppers would clog the grilles, especially on those cars coming from Nebraska and Kansas.”
Golfing, cribbage and the Broncos
Gerry’s family and friends agree that golf was Gerry’s true passion, and he didn’t like anyone beating him.
“He would miss a putt, and he thought it was the end of the world,” Stevens said.
He was on the East High School golf team and was an original member of the Hiwan Golf Club.
“If you wanted to spend time with Dad, you learned to play golf,” Rick said, explaining that Gerry remembered the golf courses he played, the shots he made and the clubs he used.
He golfed until a couple years ago, when he started playing cribbage — his new passion — something else he didn’t want to lose at either.
An avid Broncos fan, Gerry had a difficult time watching Broncos games live on television because he couldn’t stand to see the them lose. So the family recorded the games, and if the Broncos won, then he’d watch.
A big family man, Gerry took his children fishing on Evergreen Lake and camping, and Fourth of July was a holiday to be celebrated in a big way. His children said he would do anything for them, though he was wise enough not to intrude into their lives.
Friend Jimmy Stevens added: “He knew more about the history of Evergreen as anybody. We would play (golf) at Fox Hollow, and as we were going down the canyon, he’d tell stories about the old road and certain floods. His knowledge and his memory of the history was just unbelievable.”
Like many of Evergreen’s first families, Gerry was a charter member of the Evergreen Kiwanis, which formed in 1952 as Evergreen’s first service club. He was also a charter member of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce, and helped start the Evergreen Fire Department and the Evergreen Rodeo. He was active in Evergreen’s Masonic Lodge and was a 32nd degree Mason.
“He was never pushy as far as his way of doing things,” friend Bob Poirot said. “He was always inclined to be in the background of things. He was a good worker for whatever community involvement.”
Poirot said Gerry helped with all sorts of projects, events and fundraisers in Evergreen, quietly getting the work done.
“He was one of the early leaders of the community even before there was a community,” Poirot said. “Though he was business oriented, he was always willing to help with whatever needed to be done in the community.”