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OJAI : Ex-Wrestler Makes Profession of Vows

A former wrestler who traded his leopard-skin tights for a deacon’s habit 14 years ago made his first profession of vows into the Order of St. Augustine in Ojai on Wednesday.

Bill Olivas, a 70-year-old deacon at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, once known as the Wild Man of Borneo and the Elephant Boy, made his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience before members of the order.

“I didn’t sleep a wink last night,” said Olivas, who may complete his vows in three years to become a priest. “I feel like the groom in a wedding and I’m going to become married to the church.”

The hulking deacon with the teddy-bear face is a native of Ojai and comes from a long line of Ventura County Olivases. Olivas Park was named after his great-great-grandfather Raymundo, a soldier in the Mexican army.

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He attended Villa Nova Preparatory School in Ojai and Los Angeles College, a Catholic school that has since closed.

When war broke out in the 1940s, Olivas enlisted as a chaplain’s assistant, participating in the invasion of Normandy.

While in England he was introduced to wrestling, and went on to become a professional. Olivas had three wins and five losses against wrestling great Gorgeous George.

“I had an Afro hairdo and some funny costumes,” Olivas said.

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Olivas made a substantial salary then, but he gave it all up in 1965 to come back to Ojai and manage the Matilija Hot Springs, a health resort.

He was ordained in 1977, and when his wife Marcia died 11 years later, Olivas devoted all his attention to the church.

Olivas’ boss, Pastor Patrick Keane, said the range of experiences makes Olivas a good person to have around.

“He’s seen a lot of different people,” Keane said.

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As an Augustinian deacon, Olivas will give baptisms and preside over weddings, but he will not hear Communion or say Mass.


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