Jeffrey Joseph Olenik
Jeffrey Joseph Olenik, October 31, 1947-March 3, 2023. The son of Margaret ‘Dee’ Olenik and Paul Olenik, Jeff grew up in Santa Monica, California in a house on 21st St. that grew along with the size of the family. He was the second of six children and is survived by Bethany, David, Theresa, and Cindy, his stepsister Leslie, and his honorary brother, Dan; he was predeceased by his parents, his brother John, and Jan, his brother Dave’s wife.
Jeff attended Grant Elementary and John Adams Junior High, graduating from Santa Monica High School in 1965. He enjoyed living in Santa Monica and being near the ocean. In fact, when he was told to choose either Little League or surfing, surfing won hands down. Jeff spent many years surfing, starting at the age of 11 to well into his 60s. When he and his wife, Barbara, moved to Santa Barbara, he joined the Santa Barbara Surf Club and they enjoyed many gatherings and contests throughout California as well as enjoying the surf at California Street in Ventura and Devereux in Isla Vista. He never lost his love of the ocean and found solace in just the sight of it. ‘You can take the man out of the ocean but you can’t take the ocean out of the man’.
In 1967 when Jeff got his ‘Greetings’ letter from Uncle Sam and given his low draft number when the Vietnam war was raging, he decided to join the Air Force even though it meant a longer stint in the service, ultimately thinking he’d have a better chance of coming home; this decision more than likely saved his life. After basic training, he served part of his time in the Philippines and did two tours in Vietnam working in air freight. He came home in 1972 intact but very much missing some of his youth, as war is wont to do.
After working a few different jobs, Jeff accepted a job at Orkin Exterminating Co., in Culver City, getting his Branch 1 and 3 licenses to do termite inspections. One day while working on a job for Orkin, he spotted the very distinctive shape of a car under a tarp that he knew was his dream car from his high school days—a 1958 Porsche Speedster. He talked to the owner, purchased the car, and over two years he lovingly restored it back to pristine condition.
Jeff also enjoying fishing in the creek and river near where his Dad and stepmom, Lillian, lived in Oregon. He also enjoyed fishing off the Goleta Beach Pier.
Jeff met Barbara Knox in 1975 when he was 27 and she was 22 working as a temp employee at Orkin. In 1979 he was asked to manage an office in Vallejo, California, and he lived there until he and Barbara married in Burton W. Chace Park in Marina del Rey on July 5, 1980. That same year he accepted a termite inspector position in Santa Barbara, a terrific, life-altering move for both of them. In 1983 they were able to buy a house in Goleta where they lived to the present.
While working for UC Santa Barbara Extension’s English Language Program from 1981-2005, Barbara was given an opportunity in 1988 to travel abroad as an ELP representative at a language fair in Paris. Jeff joined her after the fair ended, and it was this first experience abroad that led to their lifelong passion for travel. They enjoyed some memorable and very special trips, especially after Jeff retired in 2012, collecting stamps in their passports from over 15 countries.
Several years into Jeff’s retirement, a stroke in 2020 with an aftermath of complications which slowed the pace of his life over the next two years, he faced these challenges with courage, grace, and a positive attitude. Barbara and Jeff continued their travels, including a last trip to Tahiti and Bora Bora over Christmas 2022. The draw of the ocean never left Jeff. He would look longingly at his surfboards or would talk about going surfing again, and even when walking was difficult, he and Barbara would walk out to the West end of Isla Vista and rest on a bench where they could watch the ocean and he could see the waves at Devereux. On their last walk there in his final weeks, they saw a pod of dolphins with a baby dolphin in their midst, an amazing sight and very special and comforting memory forever etched on Barbara’s mind.
Sometimes life throws us curveballs, and Jeff was hit very hard with many challenges and issues. In spite of his tenacity and inner strength, he was ultimately unable to withstand the onset of aggressive cancers that developed in 2023. He spent his last week in the nurturing care of the staff at Serenity House, where he was kept comfortable and out of pain until passing in his sleep in the early hours of March 3, with his beloved Barbara at his side. We all can find comfort in the fact that he has now been released from the trials and tribulations put in his path. Many thanks to those who were able to come and visit Jeff in these last days, very special and very much appreciated. Picture him whole, vital, and healthy again. Jeff was Barbara’s partner in life, her love, adversary, consoler, companion and friend, travel companion. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers, send strength and love to Barbara and his family.
Donations in Jeff’s memory are welcome and appreciated and can be made to the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, Serenity House or anywhere of your choosing.