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Published: Monday, 5/17/2004

4-year-old gets MBA for father who died

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Linda Ollerenshaw, with daughters, Clara and Anna, and an earlier family portrait. Linda Ollerenshaw, with daughters, Clara and Anna, and an earlier family portrait.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

It was icy last Christmas Eve when Linda Ollerenshaw's husband was killed in a car accident on the way to work. The presents already were under the tree at home.

But there wasn't time to properly grieve. Not right away.

She had two young daughters, including a 4-year-old who knew Santa would be tired and his reindeer would be hungry. She couldn't have both daddy and Santa not come. So they left cookies out and opened gifts.

"You had to sit there and do Christmas morning," said Mrs. Ollerenshaw of Whitehouse.

Six months later, there remained one gift to open.

James Ollerenshaw finished his MBA at Heidelberg College less than two weeks before his death at the age of 35.

His family gathered yesterday at the college in Tiffin for the commencement ceremony and to receive his degree, ceremonial hood, and a well-earned plaque.

A student with a 4.0 grade-point-average, Mr. Ollerenshaw was honored as one of three outstanding students acknowledged by the program, an award for which he was selected before he died, but did not know, officials said.

The ceremony had special meaning for Mrs. Ollerenshaw, who said she was not able to attend her husband's 1994 undergraduate graduation from the University of Toledo because they were getting married later in the day.

"He had always said that he wanted to finish school before we got married," she said.

"I was disappointed that I didn't get to go to his graduation."

"He had always joked that [I] couldn't go to the first one, but [I] could go to this one."

Family members and co-workers remember Mr. Ollerenshaw as a classic "people person" whose face was always plastered with a smile and who had an insatiable curiosity.

"James just had a way about him. He had a great quest for knowledge," said his wife, who is on an extended maternity leave after giving birth to Clara, now 13 months. Mrs. Ollerenshaw taught middle-school children with learning disabilities in Pike-Delta-York schools. "He inspired people to be better people," his wife said.

Born to dairy farmers near Manchester, England, Mr. Ollerenshaw came to the United States in 1987 as part of a college exchange program that involved Ohio State University and The Andersons. He spent most of his professional career working for The Andersons, most recently as a product manager for professional turf products.

Tom Waggoner, vice president in the company's processing division, said Mr. Ollerenshaw had a knack for drawing people out and showed genuine interest in others.

And he had his fun quirks, such as keeping clocks on the wall at work showing the times in Maumee, New York, Bentonville, Ark. (home of Wal-Mart, a client), as well as Greenwich and Manchester in England. He wanted to learn to fly and visit all 50 states.

At Heidelberg, he took classes at the college's Maumee location.

He excelled and was innovative during the two-year program, said Henry Rennie, the college's director of graduate studies in business who had Mr. Ollerenshaw in class.

"He would come up with very unique things and not keep them to himself," Dr. Rennie said. "He's the kind of person you would follow."

Mr. Ollerenshaw finished his coursework in mid-December, and was killed in a two-car accident on U.S. 20A and Weckerly Road in Monclova Township on Dec. 24.

His wife predicted the ceremony would be bittersweet. She attended with Anna, Mr. Ollerenshaw's parents from England, and other family members.

"He's not there, but we're so proud of him," she said.

It was particularly important for her to have Anna there to receive the hood her father earned.

"Then Anna can say one day that she was able to receive that on behalf of her dad," Mrs. Ollerenshaw said.

"She misses him a lot, just like all of us."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at: ryansmith@theblade.com or 419-724-6074.



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