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Inspiring America

Energy Giant Does Right by Grieving Father Behind Mystery Memorial for Son

For a dozen years, the man behind an elaborate roadside memorial outside a Chevron property in Richmond, California, remained a mystery.

It wasn't even clear exactly who the familiar fixture in the Hilltop neighborhood was honoring.

The meticulously cared for memorial featuring flowers, statues of angels, solar lights and small shrubs stretched along a fence on the edge of a scraping station owned by the energy company.

Inspiring America: Big Company Helps Father Preserve His Son's Memory 1:45

"We'd see that it was being maintained, but we'd never see who was maintaining it," Chevron executive Joe Lorenz said.

The company was content to leave the memorial alone until last year, when the property needed an upgrade. Chevron posted a note at the scene, asking the anonymous caretaker to give the company a call.

That's when Ray Olson finally decided to step forward.

He created the memorial to honor his only son, who was also named Raymond. The younger Raymond Olson was just 22 years old when, in 2003, he was killed in a crash involving a drunk driver.

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His loyal father tended to the memorial in the middle of the night so no one would see him. He always feared the tribute would someday vanish and assumed that was going to happen when Chevron posted the note.

"I just knew they were going to take it down," Olson said.

He never predicted what happened instead.

Chevron teamed up with Cesar Zepeda, president of the neighborhood council, to build a permanent memorial, featuring a bench and plaque with a photo of Olson's son in a nearby park.

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"We said, 'This is your spot, Ray. You no longer have to come at night,'" Lorenz said.

With the new memorial, Olson said he feels he can finally accept his son's death.

"Knowing that you've given life and hope to a father … and knowing that you make somebody's life better, it's an amazing, amazing feeling to have," Zepeda said.

"It shows you people do still care," Olson said. "The world has hope."