Obituary: Loretta ‘Sam’ Olivas April 14, 1935 – Sept. 9, 2023

LORETTA ‘SAM’ OLIVAS April 14, 1935 – Sept. 9, 2023

Long time Los Alamos resident Loretta “Sam” Olivas passed away Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, peacefully, with her family watching over her. 

Loretta was born in Low Gap, Arkansas April 14, 1935 and moved to Los Alamos when she was 10 years old with her mother, Kathryn Byrd, who was in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. She like to tell the story of once picking up a gentleman’s hat that was blown away, who then told her, “Thank you, you can call me Oppie”.

Loretta was a majorette in high school, twirling and dancing until graduating in 1955. After graduating high school, she was a telephone operator where she picked up the nickname “Sam”, based on the mysterious and sexy telephone operator in the TV show Richard Diamond, Private Detective, which stuck with her for life.

Loretta worked at LASL, EG&G and again at LANL, beginning as a secretary and working her way up to Vault Custodian. She retired from the laboratory the day the Cerro Grande Fire began. A week later, after her home burned down, her old boss called to see how retirement was. Sam replied, “retirement isn’t all she thought it would be” and went back to work for two more years.

Loretta ‘Sam’ Olivas

She was athletic and enjoyed golfing and bowling. She had 3 holes-in-one and bowled into her late 80’s. She was very involved with the Women’s Golf Association, including being president at least once. She had a big heart, loved animals, and enjoyed making people laugh and smile. She will be dearly missed. 

She is survived by her four children Nick Olivas and his wife Lisa Olivas, Danny Olivas, David Olivas, Sheila Merson and her husband John Merson; and her half-sister Joyce Melton, and her half-brother Mike Durham. Loretta has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren who she loved very much. Loretta was a “second mom” to many close family friends and made friends until her last days at Aspen Ridge. 

Loretta was preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, Peter Olivas. 

A private family burial will be held at Guaje Pines Cemetery. In celebration of her life, a gathering at Aspen Ridge Lodge will take place at 2 p.m. Oct. 4. Please come share memories, tears and laughter in support of her family and in honor of her life. 

In Loretta’s memory, visit to share pictures, stories, and condolences for her family to cherish. Rivera’s of Los Alamos is honored to care for Loretta during this time. 

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