Mother, son live out their faith together
What started as a project for Lent continues to reward them
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
Joanne Olson is not only teaching her son, Matt, about faith and
service to others, but is doing it with him.
Rather than give up something for Lent this year, Joanne and
Matt, decided to give of themselves. Together they regularly
visit Robert Routheau, 88, a resident of San Luis Medical and
Rehabilitation Center in Ashwaubenon.
"It's been a great experience," said Joanne. "Until you
experience going there, you don't realize how lonely some of the
people are and how important it is to visit them."
The Olsons chose Routheau as part of Nativity of Our Lord
Parish's "Adopt a Grandparent" program.
"I picked a card at the church that included his name, room
number and three of his interests," explained Joanne. "It listed
that he enjoyed sports, so I thought he would be a good match for
Matt, a junior, is a member of the track and field and football
teams at Ashwaubenon High School. Sports are among the topics he
discusses with Routheau.
"He likes to talk about the weather, but he also tells me about
when he played basketball and they won 22 games," said Matt. "He
likes to hear about my track meets, school, the prom. He told me
how much he likes ballroom dancing."
"He lights up when he sees Matt," said Joanne. "He is very
engaged with him when we visit. When he found out that Matt won
two medals at his track meet, he immediately shook his hand. They
have really connected."
Routheau, who is originally from Oconto Falls, has inspired the
Olsons through his outlook on life.
"He is so optimistic," said Matt, Joanne and husband Terry's only
child. "He doesn't complain about anything. For so many people,
it would be frustrating to live on somebody else's schedule, but
he is always positive."
"Robert has a wonderful disposition," said Joanne. "Spending time
with him has brought so much joy and taught us many lessons. The
time is a sacrifice, but it has really added something to our
The Olsons, who moved to Ashwaubenon from Coral Springs, Florida,
two years ago, were nervous when first meeting Routheau.
"It took a couple times for Robert to understand why we were
there," said Joanne. "He told me he 'liked being adopted.'"
"We usually sit and talk with him," said Matt. "We brought him
chocolate chip cookies. If you get him going, he really talks a
Visiting Routheau has strengthened Joanne and Matt's close
"When we first started going, I asked Matt if he would be
interested in going by himself," said Joanne. "He said that he
wanted to continue to go together. When your kid is in high
school and is busy with school and sports, it is tough to find
time to spend together, so this has been really nice."
"This has been such a valuable experience," she continued.
"Seeing a side of my son that is so compassionate and loving has
been so rewarding."
The Olsons plan to continue their relationship with Routheau as
long as possible. They try to visit once a week.
"I couldn't go during spring break and it's tough sometimes with
track and homework, but it's nice to have someone to visit," said
Matt. "Some of my friends from school work there. I think they
were surprised to see me there."
Last year, Joanne gave up coffee for Lent. Matt attempted to give
up soda, but didn't stick to it.
"This is a much better option," said Joanne. "I wouldn't have
thought of it if it wasn't talked about at Nativity. The parish
made it easy for us to get involved. It's been wonderful."