John Olson

John William Olson

1929 - 2019

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Obituary of John William Olson

Obituary After a brief illness, John Olson, age 90, died peacefully on September 22 with family by his side. He was born in Minneapolis, graduated from the University of Minnesota, and spent most of his working years in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. He lived in Arizona from 1998 to 2006 and after a 7-year stay in St Petersburg, Florida, returned to Tucson in 2013. He served in the U.S. Navy, Amphibian Force, in Korea and in the Navy Reserve. John was predeceased by his parents, Arthur and Edna Olson, and a daughter, Margo Olson. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Janet, and two daughters, Suzanne Olson and Janet Rosenberg, and one granddaughter, Jessica Kumar. After University and the Navy, John owned and managed a company in Rock Island, Illinois, which manufactured oil and gas burners for suppliers to the heating market, and subsequently moved to New York to join Merrill Lynch. He retired from the financial services industry in 1989, after having managed several branch offices over a 30-year career that also included regional and national management responsibilities. John worked to advance civil rights causes most of his life, especially in the 1960's. He was the founder and president of the Darien [CT] Interfaith Human Rights Committee, an organization whose name, he always said, was several contradictions in terms. The group brought Dr. Bea Hargrove and Rev. William Sloan Coffin, among others, to the suburbs to speak and raise support for the advancement of civil rights. He participated in the March on Washington in 1963, and was also a member of the Boards of Directors for several orchestras where he lived over the years, in Louisville, KY, Paducah, KY, and Richmond, VA. His past 30 years of retirement have included lots of travel and indulging his lifelong love of history, economics and politics. In 1989, John and Janet went to live in Europe for a few years gathering friends and ideas from differing perspectives. After they returned to the U.S., travels continued, both domestically and abroad. There were always plenty of conversations, mostly about politics, local to global, and always asking inconvenient questions, addressing difficult issues facing us all. His granddaughter Jessica, now a PhD scientist, encouraged him about the future of the planet and always made his heart glow. He still spent hours on the phone with his cousin Gene, remembering where they came from, and talking about how to to make the world a better place. His favorite book of the moment was The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community by David Korten. He tried always to be open to new ideas and he will be missed in many places. To leave online condolences, please visit There will not be a formal memorial, but a donation in remembrance of John may be made to Casa de la Luz Hospice either online at or to Casa de la Luz Foundation, 7740 N Oracle Rd., Tucson, AZ 85704. A celebration of a life well lived will be held for John on October 24, 2019, from 11 am to 2 pm, at his home in Tucson, 2547 W Wayward Wind Way. Please bring your memories and stories if you are able to attend, or share your thoughts by posting on this link. To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of John William Olson, please visit our floral store.
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Celebration of Life

Thursday October 24, 2019 11:00 AM Olson Residence 2547 W Wayward Wind Way Tucson, AZ 85745