Sixty-one years of memories echo inside the immaculate Second Street home, from her son Kermit’s paintings that adorn the walls, from the scrapbooks filled with pictures and clippings tucked on a coffee table shelf, and from the mementoes placed with precision around the room.
Katherine Oliver’s life can be defined as nothing less than the success story of a mother who reared four successful sons with Christian values.
“The Lord blessed me with a God-fearing husband,” she wrote on a note card more than four decades ago. “I am sure we loved each other very much to be blessed with four boys, all in a row. On the road of life, I view the ups and downs, until the good Lord gave us our four children.”
Katherine married her late husband, K.J. Oliver, in 1936 in Bloomington where he was a cowboy. Away all week, she looked forward to his return on Thursdays when she always had a cobbler waiting. Soon the word spread, and K.J.’s friends would come by on Thursdays as well.
The Olivers welcomed the birth of their sons, Karl on April 21, 1937; Kenneth on Feb. 11, 1940; Kermit on Aug. 14, 1943; and Keith on Dec. 18, 1949.
Coming of age before the civil rights movement, before affirmative action and before a college education was available to everyone, the Oliver sons were provided with the tools to succeed, “family, church and school,” Mrs. Oliver says.
“I’m sure some people thought we were trying too hard,” she wrote. “But my Bible taught me to train a child and I prayed and asked for His guidance. If I had to do over, I would do the same.”
Karl, the oldest, went into the service and worked for Dow Chemical as an engineer until his retirement in 2000.
In his mother’s home is a narrative on how Karl made the legendary Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle a model of the infamous Gee Bee airplane, which was presented to the general during the 36th annual Hornet Reunion in Rapid City, S.D., in 1978.
Gen. Doolittle sent a letter, plus an autographed picture and note to Karl in appreciation.
“(Your model) is a beautiful piece of work and occupies a place of importance among our trophies,” Doolittle wrote.
Unsatisfied with any imperfection, Karl trashed three models before he was satisfied with the one that he gifted to Doolittle.
World-renowned artist Kermit is the only American artist to be asked to design silk scarves for Paris fashion house Hermes. His creations are shown around the world.
“As a child, I experienced an environment whereby one’s life and actions were requisite of a religious nature,” Kermit Oliver says about his work. “These modes were reinforced by the aspirations of my parents’ lifestyle and illustrated in biblical narratives.”
“The kids called him Mit,” Katherine Oliver says. “He was always drawing but I didn’t understand the depth of his talent until he was grown.”
Kenneth Wayne went into the service and completed a long career with the post office until his retirement.
Keith was a decorated career soldier in the U,S. Army. He served as a major in the U.S. Army and earned a Bronze Star for his service in Desert Storm.
Though life has been good, Katherine says, there have also been tragedies, like the loss of her beloved K.J., the loss of a son Kenneth, and the most recent loss of her grandson Christian.
But her grandson Roy Oliver says, “Every time we look to comfort her, she ends up comforting us.
“She’s the reason I’m an ordained minister,” he says.
Roy, who is Carl’s son, remembers the weekend trips to “Grandma’s house.”
Seated in the middle of the congregation at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, amid all the shouting and prayer, young Roy received a calling to become a preacher.
“Rev. Bennett was preaching like it was his last sermon,” Roy says. “I knew that’s what I want to be. I knew that was my path.’”
Roy says his grandmother’s lifelong philosophy of “love thy neighbor as thyself” inspires him.
“She lives every day the way the Bible teaches us to live,” Roy says.
He moved to Refugio to be closer to her.
For 37 years, Katherine Oliver taught Sunday school at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church where her husband was a deacon. Planting seeds of the true meaning of living a Christian life in children is one of her most precious memories.
Until a child reached 8, they learned Bible lessons under Mrs. Oliver. Upon turning 9, they graduated with a brand-new Bible provided by their teacher.
“One of the hardest things for me to do was give up my Sunday School class,” she says. “That was a joy each Sunday. And when my grandkids would come down and go along I felt like I owned the world.”
In an ongoing story she wrote through the years for her grandchildren, she adds, “I am not ashamed of my life or what I did. All my mistakes have made me accept life as it comes, as God’s will. You can always touch someone else’s life, if you are living right. No, we’re not perfect, but still living for perfection.”