There Is Nothing You Can’t Do If You Put Your Mind To It Meet Olin Flynn
By Cookie Steponaitis
photo by providedSharing his 90th birthday with his children and family is Olin’s idea of a very great day!
photo by providedWith love at first sight, Olin Flynn met and married Eunice Stevens in 1946. To this day Olin wishes he could go back and sign on for 67 more wonderful years with the love of his life.
photo by providedStanding with the rest of his class in 1946, Olin Flynn remembers most the music, the sports and the friendships of his time in high school.
photo by providedStarting off his life with a move at age four, Olin Flynn arrived in Ferrisburgh and to this day lives in the same house he built 65 years ago.
photo by providedThis Ferrisburgh Town Team included a very young Olin, his father and an uncle and cemented Olin’s live long passion for baseball.
At ninety years young, Olin Flynn has a lot to celebrate. He is excellent health and even better spirits, had a grand birthday party given in his honor and can at will list off the six children, sixteen grandchildren, twenty-nine great-grandchildren and the three great-great grandchildren. As a bonus he has two more great-grandchildren due to arrive in 2018. He can still work with his hands and essentially make, fabricate or fix anything put in front of him. He was married to the love of his life for sixty-seven years until her passing three years ago and he loves to sing. He coached over 500 youth in baseball and still has a passion for the game and his beloved Red Sox. He lives his philosophy of life and still mows his own 1.5-acre lawn and snow blows his driveway. And even all of that is not the best news; in short, Olin Flynn is a blessed man.
Olin was born to Charles and Madeleine Flynn in Huntington, Vermont on November 17, 1927 one of three children and still has a living sister and brother. Flynn was raised on a farm first in Huntington and later in Ferrisburgh and grew up learning the land, animals and the equipment that made it work. The family moved to what would be the family farm on what was then called the Hollow Road when Olin was four. He attended the one room school house on Fuller Mountain Road and remembers Mrs. Higbee and loving arithmetic. Walking to school with a neighbor boy was common and sometime they took a horse and sleigh when the roads got too rough to navigate. One day his father took Olin on an outing and the pair looked at a second farm just down the road. Since Olin’s family farm could not support two full families, Olin and his grandfather operated the new farm and Olin’s father Charles and his other two children operated the Hollow Road property. When asked if he preferred the animal or field work side of the profession, Olin paused for a moment before responding. “I was not a traditional farmer,” explained Olin. “I loved the tractor, the hay and any equipment it took to make the farm run.”
Always intending to be a farmer, Olin’s life took several turns in his early years at Vergennes High School and in most cases Olin feels blessed. Attending a card party down the road in the North Ferrisburgh Hollow Olin fell in love at first sight with the party hostess who was simply the most beautiful woman Olin had ever seen and looking stunning in a deep blue dress. “There were three of us in my age there,” Olin chuckled. “We spent the night arguing which one of us was going to ask her out and be in her life. I would not take no for an answer. I knew that night I would marry her.” Not one to let any grass grow under his feet, 18-year Olin asked Eunice Stevens from Springfield, Vermont out for a date and loved to go to dances with his special person. “We were headed out to ride on the steamship Ticonderoga,” explained Olin with a grin. “The car broke down on the way and I had to call dad for help. We never did ride on that ship together.”
While the pair never finished that date, they were married on November 30, 1946 less than six months from the first time they met. Married sixty-seven years at Eunice’s death in 2014, Olin considers his marriage to her life’s greatest blessing. The pair moved into the farm and lived their entire married life within three miles of that original property. While Olin started out working on the Sheffield Farm in Vergennes, his skill set and abilities to build took him to work on building houses on Dorset Street in South Burlington, building sidewalks, working road construction and finally a thirty-four-year stint working for the Aerospace Industry at the Vergennes plant first under the control of Simmonds Precision, then Hercules and later BF Goodrich. When asked to explain what he helped work on, Olin grinned and concluded, “Let’s just say I could fix whatever I worked on and I was proud to be a part of the NASA space movement through all the Apollo programs and the early Space Shuttle projects.”
Grounded by his years on the farm and the owner of both an incredible work ethic and positive disposition, Olin Flynn fell in love in high school with one other passion that still holds to this day- his love of the game of baseball. Showing both a photo of his 1946 Vergennes High School class photo and the Ferrisburgh Town Baseball Team, Olin points out his father and uncle also playing on the same team. With no age limit and most practices held in the pasture, the weekends of his teen years were spent learning the lessons of life from a baseball diamond. Playing mostly shortstop and outfield, Olin never played catcher or pitcher but learned to be a sportsman on and off the playing field. “I played to win,” grinned Flynn, “but it was never at the expense of having fun and being with others who loved the game as much as I did.”
As Olin and Eunice’s family grew to include six children- Zandra, Iona, Kevin, twins Mari and Shari and Tim, the focus of Flynn’s life revolved around home, family, work and his beloved game. Coaching in the local area from 1964-1989, Olin mentored generations in the philosophy of a game where everyone played, no one sat the bench and the win of the game was simply to get to play it. He coached baseball Little League, T-Ball, Babe Ruth and American Legion teams. Coaching both boys and girls as well, Olin and Eunice logged hundreds of hours playing the games and transporting the kids to the games in the family cars. One player easily stands out in Olin’s mind as quite a powerhouse and one who loved the game as much as he did. Rebecca Gebo would not let anyone call her Becky and Olin refused to call her nothing else. “She was the best catcher I ever coached,” smiled Olin. “I still have the card she sent me thanking Eunice and me for teaching her to love the game and to be a sportsman.” Several of Olin’s grandchildren were a part of the over 500 youth who passed through his teams and while he no longer coaches, Olin faithfully watches his Red Sox on the television.
While the family always worked hard, they played equally hard as well and to this day Olin still chuckles about the famed Travis which are two sleds put together owned by the local neighbor. The roads of Olin’s childhood were dirt and on moonlight nights the kids in the neighborhood went out to enjoy what Flynn called ‘sled simplicity.’ Taking the sled high up on the hill across from the farm the group would get on the special sled and push off. If they were lucky they would make the turn onto Dakin Road with a sharply banked turn and continue on almost to Route Seven. If not, the sled would fly down Four Winds Road and end up a mile or two down to the farm where Olin and his grandfather worked. Either way, after an exhilarating run the group would trample back the 1.5 miles to the top of the hill and start all over again. By 3 a.m. or so, the tired troop would say the sky was the brightest they had ever seen, find the Big Dipper and return home to sleep and dream of the next sledding meeting.
Growing up in the Flynn household was always an adventure and one filled with laughter. Daughter Iona shared a memory of the building of the home that Olin has occupied since 1966. “We all were a part of the process,” she reminisced. “We would help get the bubbles out of the cement and would help carry it in a wheel barrow to the foundation and pour. There was no cement truck. We were part of the process and felt involved and important.” While Iona marvels at all the family accomplished, Olin stands in awe of his wife and never could understand how she got it all done. In addition to raising the children and running the home, every day when the kids came home from school there were homemade snacks ready and always a meal that included meat, potatoes, vegetables and incredible desserts. “My mother was known as the Cookie Lady,” explained Iona Smith. “She must have baked and decorated thousands of cookies in her lifetime. At the holidays she would give plates to the postman, the bank, and even would bring me in plates of them at my work for the people I worked with. And pies! There were the most mouthwatering home baked pies ready at each holiday meal. We never went without food made with love and care.”
With ninety years of life behind him and being a part of a generation that has seen more change in American life than any before it, Flynn pondered a moment before responding to a request for advice for those starting out in life now. Finally going back to his roots and his personal philosophy, Olin Flynn gave away his greatest technique for having joy in his life. “Always be a sportsman,” shared Olin Flynn, “and there is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it.” This from a man, who learned to build his home, learned plumbing, electrical, farming and Aerospace all with the same zeal he coached with, loved his family and sings and yodels.
Just when you think you have a handle on who Olin Flynn is, another facet of his personality is revealed. An incredible singer and yodeler, he belted out Christmas songs and his and Eunice’s favorite polka song “Just Because.” The couple would go dancing at least three times a week and reflecting on his love of music, Flynn takes it back to his father calling square dances and his involvement with music in high school as a member of the All State Orchestra for violin in 1946 as well as a tenor in the All-State Chorus the same year. Never one to leave things unfinished, Olin Flynn went back and finished high school and graduated from the new Vergennes High School in 1970, one year after his daughter Iona graduated. To this day he can out bowl some of the family and competes regularly with much younger teammates in bowling leagues in Burlington.
When asked to sum up his blessings Olin Flynn was a bit emotional and responded, “I am very thankful that all of my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren are physically sound and that they love sports and family too.” In fact, the most astonishing legacy of Olin Flynn is the love of family and work that has passed through generations. All his family down to the great-great grandchildren lives within thirty miles of the homestead farm. Thirty miles and five generations and Olin Flynn has more energy at ninety then many men half his age. “He will be here for 100 and more,” grinned daughter Iona. “I sure hope so,” concluded this blessed man. “I would like to sign up to marry Eunice all over again and have another sixty-seven years together. I am blessed.”