Tribute to R. Merrel Olesen, MD

Dr. R Merrel Olesen passed away in May 2023. He was a faithful and impactful supporter of the Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour. When asked by his brother how he wanted to be remembered, Merrel said, “I wanted my life to do as much good as it could. I wanted my life to be a blessing to as many people as possible.” It certainly did that.

  Madre Antonia and Dr. Merrel Olesen, September 11, 2011

In 1981 he married the love of his life Marie Bonvillain Olesen. Merrel and Marie shared a belief in philanthropy and business alike, believing the more prosperous they were, the more people they could help. One life altering night in early 1981, Merrel met Sister Antonia Brenner, an American nun committed to helping “the poorest of the poor” in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego. Mother Antonia, as she came to be known was located at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana. Mother Antonia told Merrel she had been praying for a plastic surgeon to operate on prisoners. Prisoners needed minor surgeries and tattoo removals among other things. Merrel instantly volunteered with his wife Marie serving as “nurse.” Marie is the CEO of their practice, La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre. They faithfully traveled to Tijuana monthly for ten years.

Mother Antonia was an incredible part of his life as he had a difficult and somewhat painful upbringing. There is a story about what people do with pain as Mother and Merrel both did; how they used the pain to help others, and how Merrel became such an extremely kind man.

Dr. Merrel Olesen with wife and co-worker Marie, circa 1980s

Marie still has a framed 1980’s story of the two of them with Mother Antonia in the San Diego Union Tribune. She also has a framed picture of the three of them in the office, along with Mother’s ‘Apple’ award and her Dove of Peace award protecting all of them. Marie relates that she had a rosary that Mother Antonia had given to her. She gave it to Merrel during his last days in the hospital. Sadly, it was lost in a linen change. She said it reminded her of a story Mother Antonia told them about how Pope John Paul II gave Mother Antonia a rosary and she promptly gave it away.
It is always disheartening to lose someone like Merrel who gave so much. We can be thankful for all he did in his time on earth. As the Bible says ‘well done good and faithful servant.’ We ask that you pray for the family: Marie, Scott, Matthew, Laura, and his granddaughters, Greta and Johanna.

Dr. Merrel Olesen and Mother Antonia, circa 1980s

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