LTC (Ret) David Wolcott Olmsted, age 76, died on October 29, 2022 in his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas surrounded by his loving family after soldiering through a twenty year battle with Parkinsons.
David was born in Lawrence, Kansas on September 3, 1946 to Herbert and Faye (Jones) Olmsted. He went to Lawrence High School where he excelled academically, earning him a congressional recommendation to attend the West Point Military Academy. He graduated with honors in 1968. While a cadet at West Point, David met his wife Jessica, a New Jersey native of Italian heritage, who was the animating force of his life. She extended his serious-mindedness and stoicism with a playfulness and warmth, complimenting his character.
As a young commissioned and newly married Captain in the United States Army, David served in the Vietnam War from July 4, 1970 to July 4, 1971. His first daughter, Kate was born during this time and he was grateful to make it home to meet her. He would later learn that his exposure to Agent Orange during the war was responsible for his diagnosis of Parkinsons in 2003.
After the war, the family moved back to Lawrence where David did his graduate work at The University of Kansas. His son, Peter, was born in 1973 extending the Olmsted legacy in Lawrence. After earning his Masters degree, David returned to West Point as a Professor of English. There his family welcomed another daughter, Beth, in 1975. The family moved five more times, including posts in Germany and at White Sands Missile Range (New Mexico) where David was the public affairs officer during the space shuttle Columbia’s landing in 1982.
David retired from the military in 1992 after a 28 year career. His last post was leading the Wheaton College (Illinois) Army ROTC Program where he was instrumental in mentoring and developing leaders. This final professional chapter was evidence of his faith, leadership and scholarship. As a testament to his influence and example, from this relatively small program there are four Wheaton College ROTC graduates from his tenure who are now Brigadier Generals currently serving in the US Army.
David and Jessica spent the last fifteen years in close vicinity to their children and grandchildren in the Pacific Northwest. David kept the impacts of his disease at bay for many years by doubling down on his love for golf. At his local golf course, The Home Course, he played regularly (shooting an impressive 75 at the age of 68) and worked as a meticulous groundskeeper and welcoming but circumspect course marshal. It was not in him to hurry people on the golf course or in life. He then moved back to Lawrence at the beginning of 2022 to be lovingly cared for by his son Peter and daughter-in-law, Crystal.
David embodied his Christian faith. He was a trusted advisor to many, a wise and balanced counsellor, a teacher who embraced truth and made space for mystery, and a quiet presence. In addition to being an avid golfer, he was also a competitive racquetball player (Illinois state champion at one point!), a broad based sports enthusiast, a master of math problems and Crossword puzzles, and an early adopter of technology who wired his house to be smart before we had the word for it. But, as he said, at his 50th wedding anniversary with his signature, dry self-effacing humor, his greatest delights were his wife, children, and grandchildren.
David is survived by his wife of 53 years, Jessica, and three children along with their spouses: Kate & Brett Ballbach (London, UK), Peter & Crystal Olmsted (Lawrence, KS), and Beth & Matt Maclean (Seattle, WA.) He also had seven grandchildren whom he loved well: Quinn Ballbach, Colin David Ballbach, Lawton Ballbach, Joshua Maclean, Ethan David Olmsted, Rachel Maclean, and Eli Olmsted. He is also survived by a sister, Betsy Faulkner, and several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his father Herbert W. Olmsted (April 1973), his brother Robert P. Olmsted (November 2021), and his mother Faye Olmsted Jones April 22, 2022, at the age of 103.
A funeral with full military honors will be held on Veteran’s Day, November 11 2022, at 2:15 pm at Memorial Park Cemetery, Lawrence. A visitation will be held from noon until 2 pm with remarks at 1 pm at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 852, Lawrence, or Wounded Warrior Project, in care of the funeral home, 601 Indiana St., Lawrence, KS, 66044.