A fellow Oregonian, I think your the first Ive noticed at this forum.
It is quite humerous how certain corporations feel the need to scare consumers out of uninstalling their product, and it works cause the everyday normal person will keep that program forever.
I have done this many times, and have proven the scare tactics are just that. The PC distributors do tend to string those AOL files all over the place, and sometimes, a few components may actually reinstall themselves right after you uninstalled them.
Ignore the pop-ups, and if it wont let you delete something, Hold the Shift button at the same time you are deleting. I have become quite efficient at the task of removing bundled software, everyone in my family shops from Dell or Gateway, and I am the family geeek.
It is true, the first thing you should do is go and uninstall everything listed that is associated with AOL from Add/Remove Programs. Yes, even AIM, you can go and download it later, by itself. But, if it were that easy, then someone forgot to install it prior to shipping the unit to you.
A reliable way to find most of the junk is to run a search. I would run a few, using different keywords cause they spread it out into every user folder(even the ones you can't see because your folders are hidden).
Uninstalling should not harm anything unless you have installed something that requires AOL to function. You may also be bundled with JASC or Microsoft Plus! software. Quickbooks is another and if you have a Dell, they tend to provide you with not only AOL, but Earthlink, and NetZero as well.
Another annoyance that I have seen alot of is the creation of folders in My Documents to all the Trial Bundlled crap they send. The folder names sound really important, but if you are going to uninstall the software affiliated with that folder, then get rid of it, unless you use it for other apps. These Folders are usually In capital letters. Make sure to peek inside the folder and make sure of what you are deleting.
I would also recommend creating a System Restore point before doing anything, better safe than sorry.
Hope this helps,