Obituary of Roger Wilbert Olson
Roger Wilbert Olson (86) of Emily, MN, and Surprise (a.k.a. Sun City Grand), AZ, died on April 3, 2023, after a valiant battle with dementia and congestive heart failure.
Roger was born in August 1936, in Duluth, MN, to Rev. Carl and Elin Olson. He moved to Amery, WI, as an infant and spent a portion of his early life on a rural parish there. He loved growing up on the farm where he eventually started his public education in a one room schoolhouse. He had fond memories of strawberry fields, chickens, his dog, Pal, and the Apple River.
Milaca, MN, became home to Roger in the late 40s when his father was called to a church there. He made life-long friends, perfected his hunting, fishing, and camping skills, played trombone in the band, and discovered his beautiful singing voice that he shared so liberally throughout his life.
After high school, Roger entered the University of Minnesota where he sang in the Chamber Singers, performed as a soloist in Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute,” and earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. While he was at the U, he served on the Board and as Chairman of the board of the Chateau Eating Coop, his favorite eating and social club.
In 1956 Roger met and claimed as his own, Janet Smith, a student at Hamline University. In June of 1958 Roger and Janet were married and moved to Hopkins, MN, where she began her career as an educator. In 1959 their son Matthew was born.
In 1960 Roger accepted a job with McQuay Inc. where he learned the HVAC business. He later became a licensed mechanical engineer. His career moved through design, consulting, and finally to Hospital Engineering, where he found his true calling. During this time, Roger and Janet were blessed with their second child, Katy.
While Roger was an Associate V.P. at Metropolitan Medical Center, he achieved some interesting engineering accomplishments. His team air conditioned The Hubert Humphrey Metro Dome by piping chilled water under the street. Roger and Boone ‘n’ Erickson flipped the switch “on the air” at WCCO much to the relief of Twins fans. On numerous occasions, Roger also entertained the fans by singing the National Anthem A cappella from second base.
He continued his commitment to service by offering engineering services and serving on the Board and as Chairman of the Board of the Beth Mensing Kidney House and on the Board and as Chairman of the Board of The National Kidney Association of MN.
In 1989 Roger’s career journey took him to The Mayo Foundation in Rochester, MN. Mayo provided the engineering challenges he craved and supported his creative solutions. During these years he continued his work with the American Association of Hospital Engineers. He served on the national Board and was elected National President.
In 1997 Roger became Director of Engineering at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ. This position satisfied a long-held career goal of his- to see a hospital built from the ground up; The Mayo Clinic Hospital built in North Phoenix, AZ. After the hospital was safely up and running, Roger retired to his dream of living in AZ in the winter and MN Lake Country in the summer. He finally got to do all the fishing he desired and to enjoy the natural world he loved so much.
Over the years Roger’s commitment to the church was strong and active. He served on church boards, sang in choirs, performed solos, helped lead a boy scout troop, and taught Sunday school. His mantra was, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
Roger was preceded in death by his parents Rev. Carl and Elin Olson; his brothers Carl Elwood, LeRoy, Lester, and Glenn Olson; his sisters Marie Burns, Mildred Bloomdahl, and Ethel Johnson.
Roger is survived by his wife of 65 years, Janet; his son Matthew (Wendy) and his daughter Katy. As well as his grandchildren Eddie (Amy) Olson, Casey Vann Olson (Taylor), and Julia Olson; great grandchildren Emree and Nora Olson; many dear nieces and nephews; and his sister Grace Lundeen.
Roger was a kind and loving husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend. He will be forever remembered for his love and faithful commitment to his family, his sense of humor, and his incredible bass voice. Rest in peace, Roger, you are missed.
A Celebration of Life service will be held for Roger on May 26th at Spirit of Hope United Methodist Church; 7600 Harold Avenue; Golden Valley, MN 55427
Doors at 10:30 a.m. Service at 11:00 a.m.
If you’d like to make a contribution in Roger’s name, please consider donating to The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to support our environment that he loved so much.
We would also like to extend our warmest thanks to the staff of Cedar Bay at Jones Harrison Residence and the people at Grace Hospice for the truly excellent care you all gave to our Roger.