Huntsville Mourns the Loss of Charlotte Fern Oleinik, HEARTS Veterans Museum Founder

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Founder of HEARTS Veterans Museum Remembered for Her Dedication to Veterans and Community Service

HUNTSVILLE, TX — Charlotte Fern Oleinik, a beloved member of the Huntsville community and founder of the HEARTS Veterans Museum of Texas, passed away on May 17, 2024, at the age of 80.

Born on December 22, 1943, in Baytown, Texas, Charlotte’s early life was shaped by the strong faith and values of her parents, Lucillia and BD Fisher. She graduated from Robert E. Lee High School and attended Florida College. Her life took a pivotal turn when she met Tom Oleinik while working as a waitress during a summer break in Wisconsin. Tom, then a Wisconsin state trooper, quickly became the love of her life, leading to their marriage in 1965. The couple shared 58 years together, raising three children, DeWitt, Shawn, and JD, and providing a loving home to over 50 children in need.

Charlotte was renowned for her involvement in various community projects, from crafting to teaching Bible classes. Her most notable achievement was the founding of the HEARTS Veterans Museum. The museum began as a small Veterans Day display in the window of the Bluebonnet Square Antiques Shop in 1993, honoring Huntsville native Brigadier General Ray Lynch. By 1995, Charlotte was a member of the committee celebrating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. At the request of Mance Park Middle School history teacher Janet McMillan, local veterans shared their war experiences with students, using memorabilia and artifacts from their collections.

The success of these presentations led Charlotte and World War II veteran Charles Davis to continue their educational efforts in Walker County schools, transporting and setting up exhibits. In 1999, a small exhibit on the Timeline of Wars in the Twentieth Century was displayed at West Hill Shopping Mall in Huntsville, marking the beginning of a permanent museum space due to the growing collection of artifacts​.

Recognizing the need for a permanent location, Charlotte and Charlie officially launched the HEARTS Veterans Museum in 1994. The museum began in a leased space at West Hill Mall and later moved to a donated property between State Highway 75 and Interstate Highway 45, adjacent to the Texas Prison Museum. With community support and grants, the museum expanded to include an emergency shelter/conference center, which opened in 2009​.

Charlotte’s commitment to service and community was reflected in every aspect of her life. She is survived by her husband Tom, siblings Avilda Miller and Dalton Fisher, and her children and grandchildren, who continue to uphold her legacy. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the HEARTS Veterans Museum to support its ongoing mission.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 30, 2024, at the Huntsville Church of Christ, followed by a reception at the HEARTS Veterans Museum.

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