Artist and advocate for people living with Asperger's syndrome dies aged 75

Bill Olive pictured with his wife, Marcella Olive-Ballestra MBE

Bill Olive pictured with his wife, Marcella Olive-Ballestra MBE - Credit: SUPPLIED

A globally-known print artist who was “instrumental” in a charity helping those diagnosed with Asperger’s has died aged 75. 

William Patrick Olive, who went by Bill, was born on August 29 in Enfield, Middlesex, in 1945.  

He attended Hornsey Art College where he studied graphic design from 1961 to 1965. He was also the editor of the college magazine, Horn, in 1964.  

Following his studies, he worked at the Tottenham Court Road studio before emigrating to Canada in January 1966 with two friends. Once there, he spent more than a year working in a variety of different jobs both in Edmonton and in Vancouver. 

Bill Olive (centre), circa 1970 aged around 29, with his friends and dog Biffo

Bill Olive (centre), circa 1970 aged around 29, with his friends and dog Biffo - Credit: OLIVE FAMILY

While working as a roofer in more than 40 days of continuous rain, he decided to find sunshine in Southern California in the United States.

Following two aborted attempts to cross the border with Washington, he was finally driven across by friends with the pretense of going to a pizza house in Bellingham for the evening.

He was only able to travel there with whatever could be stuffed into his pockets at the time.  

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Once there, Mr Olive mostly lived in and around Venice Beach from April 1967 to May 1970.

After working in various occupations, including in San Pedro as a ship fitter on boats used during the Vietnam War, he began working as a silkscreen printer for the renowned poster artist, Earl Newman. There he developed a passion for screen printing. 

Some of Bill Olive's posters, which are still sold and collected today

Some of Bill Olive's posters, which are still sold and collected today - Credit: OLIVE FAMILY

Bill Olive's poster Who Rolled Mary Jane? which is sought after by collectors

Bill Olive's poster Who Rolled Mary Jane? which is sought after by collectors - Credit: BILL OLIVE

During this time, a number of posters he produced himself were distributed across America.

One entitled Who Rolled Mary Jane? can still be found online being passing between collectors.

The poster also made a cameo in the 1968 film, I love you, Alice B. Toklas, starring Peter Sellers, after being shot during a scene on Venice Beach. 

In 1970, he returned to his birth town and continued to designed and print his own work.

By February 1975, he had made the decision to move to Norfolk and live in Thurne, between Acle and Potter Heigham, with his then wife-to-be, Marcella Ballestra. 

Bill Olive, circa 1970 aged around 29

Bill Olive, circa 1970 aged around 29 - Credit: OLIVE FAMILY

Here Mr Olive began working in offshore exploration and production of natural gas for Amoco in 1979.

He stayed with Amoco, later taken over by BP, and worked his way up from draftsman to Southern North Sea wells superintendent where he was responsible for the integrity and performance of around 320 wells. 

The couple adopted their first son, Marc, in 1982, then aged six weeks old. Then in 1984, they adopted their second son, Simon, who arrived home at ten days old. 

Taking early retirement in 2002, Mr Olive progressed to producing limited edition digital prints, as well as consultancy work.

He also became instrumental in helping Asperger East Anglia, a charity founded in 1996 by his wife.  

Bill Olive's pangolin artwork

Bill Olive's pangolin artwork - Credit: BILL OLIVE

Mrs Olive-Ballestra was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in recognition of more than 20 years of service to people with Asperger syndrome and founded the charity after their son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome aged 14. 

Mrs Olive-Ballestra MBE, 75, said: “He was a talented artist and had a very varied life. From the tributes I have had, he touched many people. 

“He has a strong identity in the village and got involved with community life here.  

“He was a warm, gentle, and kind man. He was also a very humble person, a wonderful father, and helped an enormous amount of people living with Asperger’s. 

“We miss him terribly.” 

As well as his wife and sons, Mr Olive, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer more than six years ago, leaves his six-year-old granddaughter, Jupiter, who affectionately called him her “Opa”. 

The funeral will take place at Earlham Crematorium on Wednesday, September 22, at 12.30pm. Optional donations to Asperger East Anglia can be sent to Gordon Barber Funeral Home, Horning Road West, Hoveton, NR12 8QJ.

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