The residents of Richmond, California’s Hilltop neighborhood have been perplexed by a mystery.
Every day, the neighborhood residents would walk past an elaborate memorial set up on abandoned Chevron property.
It was not clear who the memorial was commemorating or who was maintaining the ostentatious display— complete with solar panels, flowers, and angels.
Cesar Zepeda, president of the Hilltop District Neighborhood Council, tells NBC:
“All we knew was that it belonged to someone who was very much loved.”
Earlier this year, Chevron decided that the property needed to be maintained but weren’t sure what to do about the memorial.
Hoping to find the memorial’s mysterious caretaker, they posted a note asking the individual to contact them.
It read, “For those individuals who are maintaining this memorial, Chevron asks that you contact the refinery at [phone number]. Thank you for your help!”
To Chevron’s surprise, the mysterious caretaker eventually came forward. The man who had created and had been tending to the memorial was a grieving father named Ray Olsen.
Olsen had created the memorial as a way to honor his late son (also named Ray), who had died as the result of a freak accident with a drunk driver.
Ray had originally been a bit scared to reveal his identity, fearing the oil giant would destroy his setup. He even went so far as to tend the memorial only at night, hoping no one would be able to see his face. In the end though, Ray decided to come clean— a decision which came with surprising results!
After hearing the tragic story about Ray’s son’s death, Chevron and the Hilltop District Neighborhood Council teamed up to help surprise the loyal father.
When it came time for the property to be maintained, Chevron and the neighborhood presented him with something extremely special, a story which was covered in an NBC News Inspiring America segment.
Instead of forcing the father to hide out and grieve his deceased son in the middle of the night, the two organizations set up a beautiful, engraved memorial situated directly next to a cozy-looking new bench,
Joe Lorenz of Chevron points out the bench to NBC News, saying, “That’s Ray’s bench. We said, ‘This is your spot, Ray. You no longer have to come at night.’
After being convinced the oil company would destroy the memorial without a second thought, the plaque came as quite a surprise to Ray who says, “I never even though to dream of something like this.”
Since being a part of the memorial surprise, Cesar Zepado has also told NBC News:
“Knowing that you’ve given life and hope to a father and knowing that you have made somebody’s life better— it’s an amazing, amazing feeling to have.”
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