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Sheriff: Cause of fatal accident remains under investigation

A mother and her three children were killed in a three-vehicle accident near Fremont on Saturday night, according to the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office.

At about 5:40 p.m. Saturday, a 2002 Ford Mustang driven by 16-year-old Jack Ford of Fremont was stopped in the eastbound lane on U.S. Highway 30 attempting to make a left turn into the Westlake Mobile Home Park, according to a sheriff’s office press release. While stopped, Ford’s vehicle was hit from behind by a 2002 Dodge Ram driven by 33-year-old German Lopez Saenz, also of Fremont.

The collision sent the pickup into the westbound traffic lane, where it collided head on with a 2001 Ford Taurus driven by 32-year-old Maria Menjivar of Schuyler. Menjivar and her three children, 10-year-old Julian, 8-year-old Adrian and 7-year-old Angel, were all pronounced dead at the scene. Menjivar was also pregnant with her fourth child, according to a GoFundMe that was set up to help the family pay for funeral costs.

Menjivar was not wearing a seat belt, according to the sheriff’s office. The three children were all in the back seat, and two were wearing seat belts.

Saenz, who was wearing a seat belt, was transported to Methodist Fremont Health and later transferred to Nebraska Medicine for his injuries, according to the sheriff’s office. He is listed in fair condition.

Ford and his two male passengers, ages 16 and 17, were also transported to Methodist Fremont Health. Ford was treated and released.

No information was available for the other teens.

Dodge County Sheriff Steve Hespen said Sunday evening that the investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.

“Reconstruction takes several days,” he said. “There are also some interviews we will do with some witnesses and then we’ll piece it all together.”

Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the accident.

Remembering Fern Olson

Cheri Cruthoff laughed when Fern Olson answered the door one day.

Cruthoff had knocked on the front door of her neighbor’s house and it took Olson a while to get there.

Olson apologized for the delay.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t get to the door sooner,” Olson said. “I was in the back with my two best friends — Washing Machine and Dryer.”

Cruthoff laughed.

“It was just one of her clever sayings,” the Cruthoff said. “She always had something witty and cute to say. We used to call them Fernie-isms. She had a million Fernie-isms and they were hers — nobody else’s.”

This week, Cruthoff and other Fremonters are remembering a local woman, who with her husband, Dale, supported numerous causes in the community and whom, friends say, had a consistently positive outlook.

Fern Olson died Thursday.

She was 93.

“Fremont lost a community treasure,” said Melissa Diers, executive director of the Fremont Area Community Foundation. “Fern Olson was down-to-earth, always ready with a witty remark, and a joy to know. She brightened every room she entered. And she was an inspiration to many through her service to community and her commitment to faith.”

Diers said the Olsons led the way for the success and impact of countless charitable efforts and organizations throughout the area — and did so with optimism, grace and a grateful spirit.

The Olsons’ impact has been seen through numerous volunteer hours through board membership, which has included FACF, Fremont Area Art Association, Fremont Family YMCA, Fremont Rotary Club, Midland University and what is now called Methodist Fremont Health — to name a few.

They were chairs of Midland’s “A Vision Inspired” capital campaign and honorary chairs for the Fremont Opera House renovation campaign.

In 2012, the Olsons were awarded the FACF’s “Betsy Mulliken Award for Philanthropy.”

Shawn Shanahan, executive director of the Fremont Area United Way, said the Olsons have long supported that agency.

They funded renovation of the Olson Community Engagement Center at 445 E. First St., which when completed will house: FAUW, Rebuilding Together, Fremont Family Coalition, Sixpence, Volunteer Connection and the Metropolitan Community College Employability Academy Center.

The Olsons were instrumental in the capital campaign for the Jefferson House, an emergency shelter for children, and The Hope Center for Kids’ expansion to Fremont.

Throughout the years, the Olsons have provided support in a very professional, quiet manner and because of that Shanahan believes they’ve supported multiple good causes.

“Fern just always brought pure joy and happiness, excitement and compassion to supporting initiatives and work and change in our community that would help children and families,” Shanahan said.

Midland University has benefited from the Olsons’ generosity as well. The Olson Student Center is one of their namesakes.

In 2015, University officials formally dedicated the apartment-style housing at Lincoln Avenue and Ninth Street as Olson Village in honor of the Olsons.

“We are so grateful for the lasting contributions the Olsons have made to the students of Midland University,” said Midland President Jody Horner in a Tribune article. “Their generosity has already strengthened our community, and it will continue to serve Midland students well into the future.”

People who knew Olson appreciated her optimistic and caring attitude.

“She was so sweet,” said longtime friend Jean Anderson of Fremont. “She was just a lovely lady, so kind, so sweet, always a smile. I just loved her.”

Shanahan recalled Olson’s love for her husband and family.

“I love how much she loved her family and Dale,” Shanahan said. “Her pure joy and happiness for Dale and their amazing marriage and commitment to each other — you always knew if you were talking about Dale, you were talking about Dale and Fern.”

Cruthoff remembered her neighbor as bright, funny and delightful.

“You never had a down moment with her,” Cruthoff said. “She would always brighten your day. If you needed a lift, you called Fern. She was a real fun person to be around.”

Olson is survived by her husband, Dale, and family and friends. Dugan Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.

Midland hosting "Warrior Through Adversity"


In celebration of Black History Month, Midland University is hosting a variety of events throughout the month of February.

Midland is set to kick off the celebration with an event dubbed “Warrior Through Adversity” featuring former NFL and University of Nebraska athlete Jamie Williams.

“Warrior Through Adversity” is free and open to the public to attend and will be held in the private dining rooms on Midland’s campus beginning at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 11.

“With Midland being one of the most diverse college campuses in Nebraska and home to the largest athletic department in the state, Dr. Williams is a speaker that our student body will relate to and engage with,” Student Success Adviser Jamie Meints told the Tribune. “He is a great fit as he exemplifies what it means to have a “warrior” mentality. He has worked hard to challenge and walk through adversity and achieve great success in athletics and in his communities.”

Williams is a former Husker football and basketball player who went on to play in the NFL for 12 season, including being a co-captain for the San Francisco 49ers for four seasons and a member of the team’s Super Bowl XXIV championship.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1990, Williams continued his education by receiving his masters of science in mass communications from San Jose State University in 1993, and a doctorate of education in organization and leadership, including an emphasis in sports administration, from the University of San Francisco in 2000.

According to information released by Midland, Williams will be sharing his story of overcoming odds to be successful at the highest academic and athletic levels. He will talk about fighting through adversity and the essence of being a “warrior” and will discuss how a warrior mentality compelled African Americans toward equality during the Civil Rights era.

The “Warrior Through Adversity” event will kick off a week of events at Midland celebrating Black History Month.

Other events throughout the week include a break dance performance and clinic at Midland’s dining hall from 6-7 p.m. Feb. 12, a history of music presentation by Midland’s Dr. Lawrence Chatters on Feb. 13, and a showing of “Black Panther” in the Olson Student Center at 2 p.m. Feb. 14.

Midland will also be posting “Faces of Black History” on its social media throughout the month, which features information about black historical figures and their achievements.