GRESHAM — Lifelong St. Henry parishioner Albert Alois Olbrich died peacefully Jan. 7 at his home surrounded by four of his six children. A funeral mass was held at St. Henry .

Albert, born Sept. 10, 1917,  was one of 11 children of German immigrants Franz and Elizabeth Olbrich. Franz founded Columbia Brick Works in Gresham immediately after he arrived in the United States in 1906. It was a true family business. From 1948 on, Albert headed the Brick Works sales office on Water Avenue in Portland with his brother Franz Jr.

Brothers Ben and Joe ran the factory in Gresham with sister Ruth keeping the books. The plant made 45,000 brick a day with clay dug from the Gresham property, and Columbia Brick Works was the Pacific Northwest’s most successful clay products company for decades. The family sold the business in 1973.

Mr. Olbrich graduated from Gresham High School. He, his brothers and many friends skied on Mount Hood before the first chairlifts were installed. They were among the first to ski the “Magic Mile” after Timberline Lodge was built. The group of friends also spent much time on the area’s rivers and lakes, often on one of Mr. Olbrich’s boats.

Mr. Olbrich was well known for his love of the automobile. Always a great storyteller, in later years he would talk of the 42 cars he owned — with stories of each that usually involved a trip to Flint, Michigan, to pick the vehicle up at the factory.

Falling in love led to station wagons and used cars. Albert married Gresham High School teacher Dorothy Johnson on Aug. 26, 1950, at St. Henry’s Church and honeymooned at Diamond Lake Resort. The couple had six children and helped found St. Henry’s School for them to attend until it closed in 1971. The family loaded into the car every year and headed to Mr. Olbrich’s beloved Diamond Lake and to the Cozy Cove motel in Lincoln City.

Summer evenings and weekends the family would meet the extended Olbrich family at the family home to share the swimming pool they all pitched in to build in the backyard on Roberts Street.

In retirement Albert was an avid golfer. He and Dorothy, and often a child or two, could often be found afternoons at Mount View golf course in Boring. Albert was a regular at his health spa/gym and for decades he walked daily through his west Gresham neighborhood. He also spent many years volunteering in Gresham and was known among family and friends for his home baked bread and smoked salmon.

Dorothy died in May of 2005 and he remembered her daily with a kiss to her photograph on the family piano.


He was a life-long, dedicated member of St. Henry Parish. He served Mass as an altar boy throughout his childhood and became a member of the parish Knights of Columbus as an adult. In addition to helping build the school, he and Dorothy befriended and supported the nuns and priests who served Gresham’s Catholic community.

Albert is survived by his six children: Cathy Olbrich-Tenney, Judy Burdell and her husband Ed, Terri Olbrich, Tom Olbrich and his wife Jane Sage, Debbie Dickinson and her husband Gary, and Joe Olbrich; his grandchildren Jesse Tenney, Emily Frost and her husband Dustin, Cristen Burdell, Kyle Dickinson and his fiancé Samantha Schwartz, Caitlin Miller and her husband Robert, and Liz Bowling and her husband Jimmy; his sisters Pauline Olbrich and Cecilia Garbarino; and numerous nieces and nephews. Albert was preceded in death by his wife Dorothy; brothers Lawrence, Franz, Ben and Joe; and sisters Ruth, Marie, Elizabeth and Gertrude.

Albert lived to his last breath at his Gresham home with his son Joe. In the last years of his life, the family was assisted by faithful caregivers Tina Franklin and Lola Ball of Home Instead Senior Care.