After graduating from high school in 1956, Robert “Bob” Olson earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Eastern Illinois University. While earning his degree, Bob found a job on campus and worked through Christmas and summer vacations in order to pay his way through school. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army, serving his country for three years. Little did he know at the time that his employment during college would later come back to haunt him.
During Bob’s summer and Christmas vacations in 1957 and 1958 he was employed by Asbestos Magnesia & Materials Corporation (AM&M). He worked with and around asbestos-containing products at various industrial and commercial jobsites as a pipecoverer and insulator. His duties required him to carry materials, cut and saw asbestos-containing insulation with a hand saw (very dusty work), and mix asbestos-containing refractory cement. At one jobsite they insulated a large boiler and piping in a powerhouse. He also recalled block and pipe covering being installed. He never received any warnings regarding the hazards of asbestos exposure.
Bob and Mary Olson married in 1967 with their entire future ahead of them. The couple raised four children together and were later blessed with seven grandchildren. Bob worked most of his life in order to support his family. Retiring in 2003, Bob had dreams of traveling with Mary and spending time working in his garden. He enjoyed summertime the most. Every year when their grandchildren visited, Bob and Mary looked forward to taking each child on their very own adventure – the zoo being a favorite.
In September 2003, Bob and Mary’s lives took a turn for the worse, however, when doctors diagnosed Bob with mesothelioma. Bob’s only exposure to asbestos traced back to his college days when Bob worked his way through school as a pipecoverer and insulator. Not long after Bob’s diagnosis, Mary suffered a stroke. Instead of fulfilling their dreams of traveling and taking their grandchildren on more adventures, Bob spent his days painfully working to catch his every breath and caring for Mary, who was 100 percent dependant on Bob for support since her stroke.
Together with Waters Kraus & Paul, Bob and Mary filed an asbestos claim in November 2003. The following spring Bob joined Waters Kraus & Paul in an attempt to fight the Hatch Bill. Bob wanted to make sure he and others like him got their day in court and the comfort of knowing that their loved ones would be taken care of financially. He walked up and down the halls of Washington with other asbestos victims and Waters Kraus & Paul lobbying, even though he felt horrible. Fortunately the trip was a success.
Bob had been very concerned that he would leave his wife without enough money to live on. He had gotten sick before he actually retired (about a month before), he was not entitled to his entire pension, only disability payments. Thus, he and Mary received about half of what they expected to receive on a monthly basis had he simply been able to retire. Waters Kraus & Paul continued to work up the Olson’s case in anticipation of trial, but by the early part of 2005 all of the defendants had settled. This was great news. It meant that with Bob’s deteriorating health they did not have to endure a lengthy trial. Sadly, Bob died of mesothelioma that same year. However, he was thankful that he could rest easy knowing that Mary was well taken care of.