John Olguin

john olguinMy uncle John Olguin passed away earlier this week. He was a joyful soul who lived a passionate life educating others about the marine environment.

He was my mentor and got me on stage at the tender age of 15 years-of-age. Under his tutelage, my love for the sea became a career–first as a marine naturalist and then as an animal behaviorist and trainer.

His passing makes me think about a life well lived and the impact one life can have on another and how it exponentially expands out to cover the globe.

When I first began whale watch tours, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was a new thing and most people didn’t know much about whales.

At the time a lot of information came from stranded specimens but the Cabrillo Beach Museum was a hub of activity for those passionate about the ocean, whales, and other marine life.

The American Cetacean Society was a new group we all were active in supporting and many of the great names in conservation and education in the marine world were often present.

I remember meetings that were held in the upstairs area of the museum, the musty smell of the collection, the great leather back turtle on display, and the constant buzz of the tiny office.

Today, members meet in a very nice auditorium. The red jacket windbreakers were symbols of those active in whale watch and the patches that adorned them were badges of honor.

I no longer have my windbreaker but I still have my blue volunteer badge from the 1970s tucked away along with some of my other relics of the past from that time such as my Marineland tag and a faded yellow Cabrillo Marine Membership Volunteer card from 1986.

My life centered around the sea and I spent a lot of spare time down on the beach and on the boats. John was always prompting active learning with his infamous antics and “do-it, do-it” commands that got everyone participating–and laughing.

Someone recently asked me about my memories of him. It is not one particular memory that stands out but a vast collection of snippets.

His encouragement, his tight hugs, his walrus like kiss, and how great it is to live a life of passion. I’d hope that one day my life would have the impact that his has.

He inspired countless bus loads of Los Angeles Unified students who were bused in to the beach or to the boats for an amazing introduction to the ocean and the life within it.

He instilled a sense of awe in amazing numbers and was well loved by his community.

His enthusiasm was infectious and his heart full of love and joy.

When I think about him the words that come are “passion”, “charisma”,  “life changing”. But more importantly, I realize what an amazing life he led and how his imprint is like that of a whale footprint.

As whales dive, they often leave a footprint on the surface. It appears and slowly spreads across the surface and gradually blends until it is undiscernible, a trace of a leviathan who can reach great depths and travel long distances.

John was a great soul with a big heart whose impact traveled far and reached great depths, and whose influence will be carried on in the hearts of people everywhere.

He will be sorely missed–but what a good life, lived fully.

Photo Credit: Bernardo Alps

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  1. Virginia Miller says

    This commentary about John has so perfectly captured the greatness of one of the greatest people to have ever walked the face of the Earth. Thank you!

    Thank God I knew this man who personified Amazing Grace. Let the love keep going for years to come.

  2. I knew John my whole life, he was a friend of the family and a neighbor. In the mid 80’s my sister and I were volunteers at the museum and aquarium. He loved what he did and showed all vistors how important the sea was and why it deserves our respect. He will be missed. San Pedro has lost it’s best friend and greatest advocate.

  3. Thanks for commenting Virginia. What a great life, still spinning from the loss. The public memorial is on the 22nd of January.

  4. Hi Marcy, we lived down near Paseo del Mar. I was super active in the mid to late 1970s and then right before he retired.