HOMEDALE, Idaho — A staple in the community and Mr. Dependable. Those were just two ways a coworkers of Kenneth Olsen described him and what he meant to his hometown.
The popular math teacher at Homedale High School died in a motorcycle crash on Monday, leaving his family, friends and colleagues shocked.
Principal Matthew Holtry described Olsen as the ultimate Homedale Trojans fan who took tremendous pride in his job.
“He’s just a staple in our community and staff,” Holtry said. “And the thought of not having him here is something we’re still trying to wrap our minds around.”
Olsen loved working with his colleagues, and the students were his passion.
“He cared about every kid, I think anybody, and every student would all tell you they knew he cared about them and that he wanted to help them,” Holtry said. “He never gave up on anybody and was always willing to work with any student who wanted to learn.”
A longtime resident of the small town in Owyhee County, Olsen graduated from Homedale High in the early 1980s, and taught math there for the last 21 years.
“His commitment was unmatched,” Holtry said. “He came to every sporting event, every extracurricular, every fundraiser, you counted on him being there.”
Olsen became a staple for the community, but also for his students. On top of his teaching responsibilities, he also coached tennis and helped get the building up and running in the morning.
“He was Mr. Dependable. He was just a good dude, you knew first thing in the morning he was already going to be here probably on his third cup of coffee,” Holtry said. “He turned off the alarms off and turned the lights on and woke our campus up for us.”
Olsen was riding his motorcycle westbound on Highway 19 early Monday morning, when another driver, identified as 58-year-old Medardo Rios of Nampa pulled out of the Simplot complex in a pickup truck. According police, Rios struck Olsen’s motorcycle, throwing him from it.
Holtry told KTVB Olsen simply loved to ride his bike and cherished those moments.
“He loved his motorcycle, any day that was nice, he would ride it and tell us about it,” Holtry said. “Whenever it got cold, he was always numbering his days - 'I think I got a couple more days I can ride my bike' - so he was passionate about it and he loved it.”
Homedale is set to start up school again on Monday, August 19. Holtry said they’ve had to rearrange some schedules to fill the void left by Olsen.
“It’s going to take everyone’s effort because what he did by himself is going to take multiple people to try and accomplish,” he said. “He’s got some shoes that I don’t know how we’re going to fill them.”
School leaders are planning an event to honor Olsen's life. Holtry said the school is still trying to iron out all the details to find the best place and time to do that.
According to the Idaho Office of Highway Safety, there have been 16 fatalities involving motorcycles statewide so far this year.