Barbara Beers Melson Olerich was born January 23, 1917, on Highland Farm east of Rolfe. She graduated from Rolfe High School in 1934 and received a B.A. degree in English in 1938 from Morningside College. She later continued her studies at Northwestern University, Morningside College, and the University of Minnesota, earning a second degree in library science. While an undergraduate, Barbara distinguished herself through her participation in intercollegiate debating.

On August 15, 1942, Barbara married Ellwood George Olerich. They lived the majority of their married years on the farm south of Rolfe, later retiring and moving to town. Barbara balanced her family life with her interests in education, politics, travel, and farming. Summers were filled with family as the Olerich homestead became the vacation dream for cousins on both sides of the family. Barbara’s love for literature and the spoken word were reflected in over 40 years of teaching English, Latin, and/or Declamatory Arts at Ireton, Eagle Grove, Pocahontas, Gilmore City, and Rolfe. In addition, Barbara served as librarian at Rolfe and Pomeroy schools. Barbara’s interest in politics was an outgrowth of civic responsibility instilled by her father, Randall Melson. She served as precinct committee woman, county vice-chairman, and Sixth District Vice-Chairman. She was a member of the Republican State Central Committee for 10 years. Barbara was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1960 and was appointed by the governor to a commission for redistricting Iowa in the late 1960’s. She was later appointed by Governor Robert Ray to the Board of Directors for the Iowa Student Liquidity Corporation where she served for 10 years. Later in her life, Barbara took time to travel with her sister to study family heritage and to countries she knew so well through her reading and teaching—England, France, Italy, Spain, China, and Nepal. She especially enjoyed her two weeks’ travel to Greece with daughter Sara. During her life, Barbara also participated in several local clubs and organizations— Sorosis and Presbyterian Women’s Group. She was a 75 year member of PEO. Barbara was also a member of the State Historical Society, the National Education Association, and Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Celebrating Barbara’s life are her son, Henry and his wife Pat of Austin, Texas; daughter, Sara Schoenefeld and her husband Dale of Tulsa, Oklahoma; son, Thomas and his wife Anne of Olathe, Kansas; grandchildren Randy Olerich, Leasa Gatzlaff, Stuart Olerich, Merete Klocke, Dwight Schoenefeld, Keith Schoenefeld, Adam Olerich, and Joseph Olerich; nine great grand children and nieces and nephews and their families. 

Barbara was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Ellwood; two brothers, Robert Melson and Richard Melson; and two sisters, Betty Melson White and Mary Melson Hanna. She, too, will now enjoy the Iowa sun rise and the birds dancing in the rock from Highland Farm that marks her resting place, and her gentle reminder to her children, wherever they went--“Remember who you are.”—echoes through the whistling pines. 

Ecclesiastics 3, 1-9 
Psalm 23 

To put anything in writing seems such an understatement of her life. 


Born: January 23, 1917
Place of Birth: Rolfe, Iowa
Death: May 2, 2009
Place of Death: Rolfe, Iowa
Occupation: Educator