Michael Olson

Obituary of Michael Allyn Olson

Mike Olson passed away peacefully on March 20th at the age of 86 from complications of dementia.

Mike was devoted to family. He married his beloved wife, Helen Boddy, in 1981. Mike had three children from his first marriage to Judy Oathout – Pam (Anton), Julie, and Brent (Cathy). Mike and Helen joyfully coparented his children along with Judy and her husband (Ed). Mike became a proud and active grandfather six times over – Nick (Kate), Natalie, Samantha (Landon), Cameron (Mike), Olivia and Jacqueline – who all lovingly called him Papa. He also delighted in his three great-grandchildren – Sasha, Dominic Michael, and Charlotte.

Mike treasured his close relationships with Helen’s parents and siblings – Kathy (Bob), Anne (Wayne), Janet (Chuck), Jim (Barb) and cousin, Maggie. Mike and Helen formed deep and lasting ties with families during extensive trips to El Salvador beginning in the early 1990s and informally adopted Emma (Ernesto) and their girls Diana and Daniela, who affectionately called Mike “Avo.” Toward the end of his life, Mike took a leap of faith and connected with his half-brother Tom Greenagel (Diane) and Tom’s extended family, forming a new, but profoundly familiar, bond of kinship with a side of his family he hadn’t previously known.

Mike was born on June 16, 1937, in Yankton, South Dakota. He spent his early childhood years raised by his maternal grandparents in Henning, Minnesota, where his Grandfather, Reverend Framstad, was the presiding minister of Trinity Lutheran church. These formative years had a profound impact on Mike and would greatly influence his major life decisions.

During Mike’s adolescent years he lived with his mother, Virginia, his adoptive father, Doyle Olson, and his younger siblings, Gary, Kent, and Melanie. Mike excelled at South St Paul High School. As captain of the varsity basketball team he was selected to the Suburban League All Star Team. He graduated as class valedictorian in 1955. He attended the University of Minnesota, became President of the U of M Law Review, clerked for the Minnesota Supreme Court, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a combined BA/JD after six years. He then joined the Dorsey, Owen, Marquart, Windhorst & West law firm (today known as Dorsey & Whitney) where he worked for 25 years, quickly rising to the partnership ranks, ultimately becoming head of their International Business Department.

Feeling the persistent pull of a more purpose-driven life, Mike left Dorsey & Whitney in 1985 and spent a few years in various endeavors, including a stint as Executive Director of the Minnesota Trade Office under Governor Perpich. Still feeling deeply inspired by his grandfather’s legacy of ministry, he entered United Theological Seminary and graduated in 1991 with a Master of Theology. This experience heavily influenced choices he made for the rest of his professional career. In particular, over the next 20+ years, he became a key leader at Initiatives of Change, an international, interfaith NGO with a mission of peacemaking and reconciliation in conflict areas of the world. He served as National Coordinator in Washington,

DC from 2003-06. He was also Executive Director – Americas for the Caux Round Table, a group of CEOs dedicated to promoting global business ethics, corporate responsibility and fair trade. They published the “Principles for Responsible Business,” widely used in business schools throughout the world.

While Mike’s academic and professional accomplishments define what he did, they do not on their own provide a full picture of who he was as a human. At his core, Mike was passionate about his relationships with friends and family. He proudly served as the Olson family patriarch, organizing extended family gatherings, planning big vacations, presiding over holiday celebrations, and observing generational traditions and establishing new ones. His devotion to others also extended to his enduring love of sports where he was forever loyal to his hometown teams – the Twins, the Vikings, and the Golden Gophers.

Mike spent a lifetime searching for higher meaning and over time learned to love the questions instead of trying to find the ever-elusive answers, as evidenced in his memoir “Love the Questions.” Those who were touched by him will miss him tremendously, but we are comforted by the fact that he left this earth in peace and his guiding spirit will always remain deep within our hearts.

A memorial service is scheduled on Saturday, April 20th at 1:30pm in Judson Memorial Baptist Church, 4101 Harriet Ave., Minneapolis; with a coffee reception immediately following.

If you wish to make a contribution in Mike’s honor, we provide the following links:

For those sharing Mike’s convictions in promoting world peace and reconciliation, support Initiatives of Change where he devoted himself for many years: https://iofc.org/en/donate

Toward the end of his life, one place that provided Mike with wonderful care was Open Circle of Hopkins Adult Day Services, a ministry of Cassia: https://www.opencircle.org/donate

Live Stream link for the Memorial Service. https://youtube.com/live/4FifZPor1TI?feature=share

A Memorial Tree was planted for Michael
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Cremation Society of Minnesota
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