David and Suzie Olsen have been married for 32 years, and that’s obvious when you speak with them. When asked to recall a memorable Thanksgiving, they each independently replied with the exact same phrase: “They’re all memorable.”
Part of the reason is that the couple host large gatherings of family (they have two sons, a daughter and several grandchildren) and friends. But the Olsens also habitually invite people who have nowhere else to go or are less fortunate into their home.
“It comes from a biblical background,” said David Olsen. “It’s about sharing what you have with people less fortunate or who are away from home. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Suzie Olsen agreed, saying, “It’s a time of year for being thankful for everything we have and sharing it with people who don’t have as much as we do.”
For at least 15 years, the Olsens have invited others to join them for both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
“We had 15 or 16 people last year,” David Olsen said. “And that’s kind of what we’ve done. We’ve opened our home to different people that we’ve met – mostly through the church, but we do find strays every now and again.”
The Olsens, it appears, have something of an open-door policy. Friends will drop in and out throughout the day.
“It’s always at least a dozen, but usually by the time the day ends, we’ll have 15-20 people,” said David Olsen. “Some people don’t make it for the time when we sit down to eat, but they’ll come along after.”
He comes from a big family. His parents, Pete and Nina Olsen, came from families of 10 and seven children, respectively. David was no different.
“There were eight of us children,” he said. “So that’s a house-full to begin with, but they always found space for others.”
He explained that inviting others into their home was something that his parents did regularly. The Thanksgiving celebrations from his childhood were always large affairs with people from all over town. He describes this tradition, simply, as customary.
“That’s just what our folks did,” he said. “Of course, living in this town as long as he did, and being a carpenter, he met a lot of different people. It was not uncommon for him to meet someone, find out they out they had nowhere to go and invite them in. He was always bringing someone home who was less fortunate than we were.”
Suzie Olsen, likewise, comes from a family that typically had large gatherings during holiday periods.
“I had a big family, and different relatives would often bring someone along with them,” she said. “And they were always welcome at the table.”
Suzie first came to Kodiak in 1968, then went back to Texas for 8-9 years, before moving to Kodiak permanently. She and David married in 1985, and she remembers attending a few of Pete and Nina Olsen’s Thanksgiving dinners.
“One year, there were so many of us that we had to rent the community hall,” she said.
This “all are welcome” philosophy is something that both Suzie and David have maintained. On one Thanksgiving, they had 33 at their table.
This year will be a little different.
“Well it’s kind of ironic. This is the first year in a while we’re going to someone else’s place,” said David Olsen.
Suzie Olsen, however, confirmed that it will be a typical Christmas in their home, with a small crowd of family, friends and possibly others they’ve met who have nowhere else to go.
“Thanksgiving is usually a little bit smaller. Christmas really busts the house right open,” she said.