Cover photo for Harriet Olson's Obituary
Harriet Olson Profile Photo

Harriet Olson

March 5, 1921 — March 8, 2024

Lake Park, MN

Harriet Olson

Harriet Ione (Norman) Olson, 103, of Lake Park, Minnesota, passed away peacefully on March 8, 2024 after a full and well-lived life. She was a loving wife, mother of two, grandmother of seven, great-grandmother of eleven, and friend to many. Harriet graduated from Hawley Public Schools in 1938. She attended Minnesota State University Moorhead, earning a degree in education in 1940 when the vast majority of students were men. It seems fitting that a woman so ahead of her time would pass away on International Women’s Day, a day that celebrates women.

Born on March 5, 1921, to Clara and Henning Norman on a farm near Hitterdal, Minnesota, Harriet was the third oldest of seven children. Her father, a Swedish immigrant, farmed. Her mother was a homemaker and poet. As a child Harriet loved spending time near the Buffalo River, and as a young adult, she enjoyed local barn dances and spending time with friends. In particular, she had a close-knit relationship with her three sisters who all lived well into their 90s.

She met and fell in love with John “Buddy” Olson from Lake Park, Minnesota and they married on June 16, 1942. Together they adopted their two children, Richard and Julie and raised them at their family farm outside of Lake Park. Harriet was a wonderful mother and raising her two children was one of her greatest joys. She encouraged each of their passions for the outdoors, animals, and the arts. Buddy and she also shared many of their Scandinavian traditions with their children and grandchildren, from making Swedish sausage and lefse to participating in the St. Lucia and Midsummer celebrations at Eksjo Church. 

Harriet was also a life-long teacher. After graduating from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1940, Harriet initially taught in one-room local schoolhouses, teaching eight grades and cooking for the children, all for $65 a month. In 1945, she started teaching second grade and continued to teach that grade level until she retired in 1982. She was a founding member of the Alpha Theta Sorority, a sorority for retired teachers. Even in retirement, she instilled her love of reading with her grandchildren, always ready to read Madeline or Curious George. One of Harriet's greatest joys was teaching children to read and write. Into her 90s, she was often approached by her former second-grade students who wanted to share how she had helped them. She is also one of the last legends to have perfect penmanship in cursive writing.

Harriet was also the quintessential grandma and her grandchildren could do no wrong, especially the youngest and only boy, Joseph. She was generous not only in her time and attention: she also had a magic cookie jar for her grandkids where the Oreos never ran low. She would amaze her grandchildren with stories from her childhood, noting that her father, Henning, would drive a horse-drawn sleigh in the winter to pick up all the countryside children for school. From the telling of her childhood which seemed like a long ago fairy tale, her grandkids would call her, The Queen of Lake Park. She was rightfully awarded that very honor in the summer 2007 (by Joseph). And if one of her grandkids called her the Queen of Lake Park, she’d turn and say, “Oh fiddle dee dee.” 

Harriet was preceded in death by her parents Clara and Henning, husband Buddy, siblings Charlotte, Ruth, Jean, David, Robert (Bobby), Henning Jr.; and her children Richard and Julie. She is survived by her daughter-in-law, Janet; her seven grandchildren, Melissa (Robert), Stacey (Troy), Amanda (Will), Carrie (Andrew), Kellynn (Kyle), Emma (John), and Joseph (Madison); her eleven great-grandchildren, Hailey, Colten, Nora, Paisley, Gunnar, Deacon, Walter, Beckett, Harriet (named for her great grandmother), Axel, and George; and her many nieces and nephews. 

As a true Swede, she rarely praised others and almost never shared her feelings, but even during her last days, Harriet’s stoic but comforting presence filled a room. Harriet will truly be missed by her family, friends, and community, leaving a legacy that will continue to inspire others to be resilient and generous.

The family would like to thank the entire staff at Sunnyside in Lake Park, Minnesota for their wonderful care and friendship they created in the six years and hospice for providing support, care, and comfort in the last days of her life. 

Visitation will be held on Friday, March 22, from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M., with a prayer service at 7:00 P.M., at Wright Funeral Home – Hawley, Minnesota. The funeral will be on March 23, 2024, at 11:00 A.M. at Eksjo Lutheran Church. Burial will be in the church cemetery. 

 

Past Services

Visitation

Friday, March 22, 2024

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

Wright Funeral Home and Cremation Service- Hawley and Lake Park

404 Leonard St, Hawley, MN 56549

Prayer service begins at 7:00

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Funeral Service

Saturday, March 23, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

Eksjo Lutheran Church

Lake Park, MN 56554

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Interment

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Eksjo Lutheran Cemetery

MN

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