It was a day of emotion and gratitude as the members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians honored the life and legacy of Larry Olinger. On July 15, the former Vice Chairman passed away but the foundation he laid will last for years to come.
During his service on Monday morning at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage, Tribal Chairman Jeff Grubbe welcomed a packed room of friends and family. Throughout the series of speakers who shared kind words about Olinger, the respect rang as loud as the former Vice Chairman’s favorite mariachi band.
Olinger loved traditional mariachi music, tennis, horses and of course, real estate. He was a man who ran with many crowds but most importantly, his fellow tribal members.
“He had all that expertise,” Grubbe said. “Something you can’t really learn in a school or a college, I mean, he had all that knowledge.”
Grubbe choked back tears as the crowded ballroom intently listened to his stories about Olinger. He was a mentor to Grubbe and other younger tribal members such as Reid Milanovich.
“Above all that, he was my friend,” Milanovich said after a long speech regarding Olinger’s patience while teaching him the ropes.
The two knew each other as “member” and “vice chairman.” An inside joke, Milanovich holds near to his heart.
Olinger spent 60 years serving the tribe and has held every tribal council position. He started serving as a tribal council member in 1961 but Vice Chairman would be his final stop.
“We would always lean on him for how to deal with certain situations when it came to those issues,” Grubbe said about his wisdom with business affairs.
From the beginning, being a part of the tribe was in his blood because of his mother.
“She was at all-women council,” Grubbe said about Olinger’s mother. “They were in charge of changing the land lease regulations with the federal government so that the land owners could actually do something because that was way before gaming; they were sitting on these empty lots.”
Grubber said women’s council didn’t want to sell, they wanted to keep the land and make income off of it. This decision would later be instrumental in making the Agua Caliente empire what it is today both locally and federally.
“His passion, class and concern for the well-being of others, including his tribe and our communities was admirable,” Congressman Raul Ruiz said on the House floor in July.
Ruiz worked closely with the vice chairman for several affairs to preserve and better the Coachella Valley. The two are both locals to the desert, Olinger grew up in Palm Springs and Ruiz, in Coachella.
“His experience was invaluable, and we’re going to miss it,” Grubbe said.
Olinger is survived by his wife, Susan. When asked, he said she was always his greatest achievement. The two were married for decades.
Olinger’s replacement has not yet been determined.