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Sugar House Journal

Long-time Resident Shares Her Journey

Nov 06, 2015 12h29 ● By Bryan Scott

By Aimee L. Cook

Olive Rayner is 93 years young and, safe to say, one of Sugar House’s oldest residents. Born in Dover, England on Feb. 25, 1922, Rayner witnessed some of the most memorable events in the history of America after she and her late husband, Bill Rayner, boarded the Queen Mary in March of 1949. 

Bill was a soldier in the British Army during World War II. The two met by chance at a dance, and together created a new life centered on family and religion. They were married on Sept. 12, 1942. Olive recalls being severely rationed in England during the war, and when the war ended, Bill had to stay in Germany in the Army of Occupation. He was finally released in June of 1946. 

Bill was a Mormon, and later Olive converted as well. After several years of trying to make ends meet in England, along with the couple’s desire to have their marriage blessed in the LDS Temple, they both felt that Utah was the place for them to raise their small family: the couple had two boys at the time.

“Coming to the United States on the Queen Mary was fun,” Olive chuckled. “ Except that my little boy Pete, who was two, was a little terror. Keith, my older son, was a bit easier. The journey took five days. We arrived in New York, then took a train to Salt Lake. With two small boys, it was something.”

Bill quickly found work washing and waxing cars. After a few months, Bill fell sick and almost died due to dehydration. The more cars he washed, the more money he made, and Bill had sweated all the sodium out of his system. Fortunately, a local doctor was found that knew how to properly treat the condition and saved Bill’s life. He later worked for Clover Leaf Dairy, where he retired after 25 years. 

Before Bill had gotten sick, Olive discovered she was expecting. The couple had not found an obstetrician yet, so Bill’s doctor recommended one. Olive remembers her first visit with him fondly. 

“I was told it would cost $75 to have a visit and exam with Dr. Galen Belden,” Olive recalled. “After the appointment I had the money in my hand, and he said, ‘What’s this? You don’t pay me until after you have the baby.’ I just loved him.”

Olive gave birth to her daughter, Susan [Peterson] in Dec. 1949, the first of three daughters born in the United States.  Julie [Tolman] and Nancy [Miller] followed. 

Olive is the last living child of George and Mae Stock. She had two sisters, Betty Harper, the eldest who lived to be 92, and Joyce Cook, the youngest, who passed away at 87. Her late husband was raised by his aunt after a flu epidemic broke out in England and took the lives of his parents and grandfather within three days of each other, when he was just eight years old. 

Olive raised her five children, then worked at Auerbach’s Department Store and the Granite National Bank in Sugar House when her youngest, Nancy, was in school. She recalls working at the bank one day and meeting Mr. Thomas Monson, the current LDS Church president. 

“The bank president brought [President] Monson over to meet me,” Olive said. “He told me he had a question about his account, so I helped him with it. He shook my hand and thanked me for my help. That really was quite a day; I will never forget how nice he was.”

Olive received her driver’s license at the age of 72 but never really drove. Still, it was an important milestone in her life. 

At her age, Olive is the picture of good health. She has only had two surgeries in her life, one just last year due to the removal of a blood clot that she was told was larger than her heart. She recently received a clean bill of health from her doctor, who told her, “See you next year.’”

“I replied to him, ‘Well, you are very optimistic,’” Olive said. 

Olive has 15 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. Her large family keeps her young and busy. Olive enjoys reading books and has been knitting since she was a young girl after learning how in school. She continues to knit beautiful hooded sweaters and baby shoes for family and friends. 

“One piece of advice I would tell my younger self is to enjoy my children more,” Olive said. “I use to not take as much time as I should have, I can see that now.”