SHIFTING YEARS: One car, two families, and an unlikely reunion 50 years in the making

It's the great thing about life, Brian says - you never know how one small thing can turn into something so meaningful.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — A pretty normal transaction – buying a car – turned into so much more for two South Dakota families.

“Dad died on September 18, 1978, and I was five years old,” says Brian Olson.

The Olson family lived in Willow Lake in the early 1970s. Brian’s dad, Gerald, was a veteran, a preacher and a car enthusiast.

After cancer took his arm, he decided to sell his prized 1960 MGA Roadster, because the stick shift made it difficult to drive. He sold it to William Highland, a 23-year-old just out of the Army. Shortly after, the Olson Family moved back to Grand Forks.

But what Gerald didn’t know was that little red car would connect the two families nearly fifty years later.

“The search was…filled with a lot of roadblocks, I can tell you that,” William said. “Things change in life; your mom’s last name changed…I didn’t have all the information I thought I had, and every time I hit a roadblock, it was like all of the sudden something pointed me in the different direction and I would make the next step in progress trying to find you.”

Thinking at first it was a scam, Brian finally opened William’s Facebook message, and after talking to his family, they decided to make the trip to Rapid City.

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Gerald’s widow, Faye (left), and their son, Brian (right), sit in the 1960 MGA Roadster that used to belong to Gerald.

Brian sees the car for more than just a car, but a memory of his dad – something he doesn’t have many of. Cancer took Gerald at just 33-years-old.

“I’m so thankful; it’s overwhelming. I’ve been touching this steering wheel and just knowing dad had…his…his hands were right here,” Brian said through tears.

The memory is not only for him, but one William says he still carries with him all these years later.

“He told me, he says, ‘you know, we have a lot of memories in this car,'” William said. “I remember him saying distinctly, ‘it was like part of the family.’ He said, ‘you know, I had this car in the Army, I dated in this car, got engaged in this car, and my kids rode in this car.’ I didn’t think much of it, because I was just a young guy – just out of the service myself – and I thought, ‘well, that’s nice.'”

It’s the great thing about life, Brian says – you never know how one small thing can turn into something so meaningful.

Brian and his family spent more than six hours with William, reminiscing, going for drives, and sharing photos of their families.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Family, Local News, North Dakota News, South Dakota News