Man who drowned lived in Forest Grove, studied to be optometrist

FOREST GROVE, Ore. - Friends of a former Forest Grove man who drowned with his son while they were canoeing on a Northwest lake say they are heartbroken.

Sheldon Olsen, 31, and his 2-year-old adopted son, Jace, were canoeing on Lake Limerick Saturday night northwest of Olympia when they fell in the near-freezing water. Search crews found the boy's body but have not found the father's body.

The family moved to Forest Grove so Sheldon could study to be an optometrist at Pacific University. Sheldon and his wife, Julie, lived there for four years, started their family and just moved to a home on the lake's shore after Sheldon graduated with his doctorate last spring.

Friends at Pacific University described the family as loving.

The family was celebrating Julie's birthday, and after a day of excitement, Sheldon wanted to give her some time alone. So he took Jace out on the lake, but they never returned.

Sheldon's friend and professor of four years, Dr. Graham Erickson, said Jace meant everything to his father.

"His family was very important to him. He was really looking forward to when they adopted their son to start on that little life adventure," he said. "I know his wife was very supportive. He was like every new father - nervous about the responsibilities. At the same time, I think he was really excited."

Erickson said Pacific University sent out an email notifying students and faculty about the drowning Monday morning. He said the tragedy has been hard on everyone.

Friends also say Sheldon was a great student and found balance in his life. Besides being a devoted husband and father, he was a dedicated volunteer at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jace's body was found over the weekend. He was not wearing a life jacket.

Investigators don't think Sheldon was wearing a life jacket either because they found two life jackets sitting in the empty canoe.

Search crews are using sonar equipment to locate the father's body in the murky lake water.

Investigators say they have no reason to believe it was anything more than an accident.

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