Edwin "Ed" Olsen


Edwin (Ed) (Sonny) Hans Olsen, beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend to many passed away Friday morning, January 15th at the Sanford Hospital in Hillsboro, ND due to COVID.

Sonny was born in Mason, Wisconsin to Edwin C. and Agnes (Kyster) Olsen on March 18, 1930. He was baptized and confirmed at the Birch Lake Lutheran Church in Lincoln Township near Grandview, WI.

Sonny made it through the 8th grade at a one room rural school near Mason, WI. His family was very poor and did not have many worldly possessions, so he quit school and went to work in the woods to help support his family. His childhood was tough and this made him a hard-working young man whose handshake and spoken word his most valuable asset. He was an avid outdoors man – hunting and fishing to provide food for the family.

He shared many childhood stories with his family and friends. Always smiling and teaching them a lesson about commitment to family, hard work and doing a job or task right the first time.

In August of 1947, Sonny, his step dad and a cousin traveled by train to Fargo, ND to find work in the fall harvest, They attempted to find work in Portland, Mayville, and Casselton by either walking or hopping a freight train. Upon returning to Fargo, they found work for a couple of weeks at the Clarence Olson farm near Comstock, MN. They headed back to Olson Employment Office in Fargo to wait for another farmer to come in looking for harvest workers. Lester Petersen from near Erie ND needed help with his fall harvest and hired the three men from Wisconsin.

Working at the Petersen Farm is where he met and fell in love with his wife, Marlis (Thielman). They married on October 4th 1950. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on October 4th 2020.

Sonny and Marlis worked at the Fred Garland farm near Page ND from 1951 to 1956. The fall of 1956 brought them to Erie ND as the bulk fuel truck driver for the Farmers Union Oil Co. Sonny then became the manager of the Co-op and Marlis took over the bookkeeping duties. He served as the town constable and led the local fire department. Sonny ran a trap line catching mink, rabbits, squirrels and fox. He and Marlis also set up grain bins to make extra cash. They worked hard and so enjoyed each other’s company. They lived there till 1963.

The summer of 63 found them moving to Hillsboro ND, where “Ed” was hired as the manager of the Farmers Union Oil Co. Marlis told him that it was time he used his given name!!!! Marlis again took over the bookkeeping duties. The family grew to 5 children in 1964.

1969 brought a big change to the lives of Ed and Marlis. They opened Olsen Hardware on Main Street in Hillsboro. The couple along with the kids knew hard work, long hours, a commitment to customers and community would make this business a success. After 26 years in the hardware business, retirement was their next adventure. Passing the store to their son Tom made a smooth transition. Olsen Hardware will celebrate their 52nd year of business in April 2021.

Ed was a civic leader in Hillsboro, helped organize the first volunteer ambulance squad in town, active member of the Hillsboro Fire Department ( fire chief for many years ), over 50 years on the Hillsboro Planning and Zoning board, the City Park Board President and member, over 28 years caring for the deer in the park, civic and commerce member, Hillsboro Business Association member, led the planning and construction of the Olsen Softball Complex, and loved mowing the fairways at the golf course.

Ed’s faith was at the forefront of his family. He was an active member of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. He was the head usher for many years and loved ringing the bells at the end of the service.

Ed’s skill in his wood workshop was amazing. His project list included: cradles for the great-grandkids, note pad holders, games, C- tables, hand held crosses and of course, his coffin!

Ed’s passion and favorite pastime was FISHING. All kinds of weather, early morning, late night, Canada, Minnesota, South Dakota or North Dakota. It didn’t matter who called- friends, family, strangers…He was always ready to pack a lunch, a beer and some bait. Let’s GO FISHING!!!!!

Ed never secured any advanced degrees, but his common sense, wisdom and compassion have filled volumes of life lessons for family and friends. He never rose to the top of any corporate ladder, but his positive approach to work, daily tasks and life – motivated and influenced countless lives. He never amassed a financial fortune but the example he left for family and friends is PRICELESS.

Ed is survived by his wife of 70+ years, Marlis. Children Jerry (Kathy) Olsen of Park Rapids MN, Bonnie (Richard) Mueller of Hillsboro ND, Tom (Stephanie) Olsen of Hillsboro ND, James (Jackie) Olsen of Eden Prairie MN, and Lynette (Terry) Gust of Eden Prairie MN. 13 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Brother – James Nelson. Sisters – Harriet Tody and Shirley Tart.
Ed is preceded in death by his parents, step-father, Albin, and brothers Lester, Johnny and Henry.

In lieu of flowers, memorial may be directed to the Ed and Marlis Olsen 509 Scholarship Fund at Hillsboro High School, PO Box 579, Hillsboro, ND 58045

VISITATION: 5-7 PM Friday, January 22, 2021 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Hillsboro – and also one hour prior to the service in the church on Saturday
PRAYER SERVICE: 7 PM Friday at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
FUNERAL SERVICE: 11 AM Saturday, January 23, 2021 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Hillsboro (live streamed on the funeral home website for those not able to attend)
BURIAL: Riverside Cemetery in Hillsboro

Masks are required for both the prayer service and the funeral service.

Ed’s Video Tribute can be viewed below:

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Memories Timeline


  1. Bonnie and Richard we are so sorry to hear of your fathers passing. So hard to lose a parent. While we did not know him, we enjoyed some of the wonderful stories you shared with all of us. Please know you are in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time.

  2. My deepest sympathies to all of the Olsen family. We have very fond memories of “Son of a gun” Sonny. We all remember how my Dad would laugh telling stories of their shenanigans!! Hugs and prayers!!

  3. So sorry to hear of Ed’s passing. He was such a great guy. My condolences to the entire Olson family. I have fond memories of all of you.

  4. My deepest condolence to the Olson family. Hold all the wonderful memories close to your heart ♥️. Ed will always be remembered as a wonderful community member, friend and family man

  5. We both said when we heard of Ed’s passing that the world is a little less bright without him. There are few genuinely good people in our world and Ed was definitely one of them. He was selfless and hard working, always willing to lend a hand. I will always remember him with a smile and laugh. Our condolences to the Olsen family and the many friends and strangers that were lucky enough to share even one chat with Ed.

  6. So very sorry to learn about your dad’s passing. I remember my dad taking me to the store and looking at bikes for me. Your dad was so very kind and helpful throughout the bike shopping. Hugs and prayers for all of the Olsen family. You’re in my thoughts and prayers 🙏❤.

  7. so sorry to hear of you husband, father , and grandfathers passing he was a wonderful man did so mush for the community always had a smile on his face he is surely going to be missed

  8. Our deepest sympathies to Marlis and to the family. We are so sorry to hear of Ed’s passing. I will miss the Sunday morning greetings in Norwegian to me from that old Swede.
    Lillian Thompson and Kathy and Linda

  9. So sorry to hear of Ed’s passing. When I think of Hillsboro, I think of Ed. He embodied the spirit of Hillsboro and all that is good in it. The community will definitely miss him.

  10. We are so sad for the Olsen Family!! Ed was an example for all of us,,,he will be missed!!! Thinking of you today and praying that God will heal your hearts!

    Love you all,
    Sue and Jim Bugge

  11. The picture you picked of him is the way I will always remember him. He always had a smile on his face, and always made you feel like he thought you were important. Truly will be missed

  12. My deepest sympathies to you, Marlys and your family. Ed always had a big, welcoming smile and was a genuine soul with a generous heart to share! He touched so many people and will be greatly missed by anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. I pray for God’s peace and strength to you.

  13. My deepest sympathies to all of you! I don’t think I ever saw Ed not smiling. You could just feel the love he had for all of you! Such a kind and generous man! May your wonderful memories of him give you comfort. You are in my thoughts and prayers!❤️

  14. Our love and sympathies to the Olsen family. We lift you up in prayer and celebrate a life of love and service with you. RIP Ed, you will be missed by all who knew you.

  15. Marlis and family, so sorry to hear that Sonny passed away. I will always remember the good visits and laughs with him. He was a great guy and good friend to my late parents, George & Ruby Hagen. My thoughts and prayers to you and your family.
    George Hagen, Mesa, AZ/Page, ND.

  16. Today we gather to celebrate our Grandpa Ed! May our tears be tears of JOY for a life well lived!

    As everyone in this room and listening now know, there are not enough words to even begin to describe this exceptional humble man. We were blessed to have him in our lives for 90 years and even more blessed to have his legacy live on in all of us. And as I told him a few weeks ago on the phone, I am so grateful that he and Grandma made whoopy and had my dad! Oh how beautiful to hear his laugh! The joys of having a grandparent that cares, is a gift! Our grandparents are a gift and today we honor our dear Grandpa that loved us so.

    My brothers and I didn’t have the pleasure of living close to our grandpa. But the times we were with him, the times we were able to soak up his humor and presence, the times we were able to learn from his ways, are forever etched on our hearts. Whenever we were here in Hillsboro to visit Grandpa and Grandma, or when they came to visit us, there was no doubt that they were ready for us. They gave us all the love and attention any grandkid would want. They wanted to spend time with us, they wanted to fish with us, they wanted to take us hunting, they wanted to feed the deer with us, they wanted to feed us, they wanted to BS and play cards. They were all in. Grandpa was always asking us about our lives, wondering what we were up to, asking questions, giving us encouragement, showing us how to fix something, and always filling us with life lessons of stories and laughs. I often joked with him about college and graduate school that I went long enough for the both of us. And during my difficult years of study for my masters, always kidded with him to give me wisdom, while rubbing his belly, his buddha of wisdom as I liked to call it, with a smile. He would take my hand and give me a side hug and tell me to keep working hard. And I did, and we will, as he and Grandma set that great example for all of us grandkids.

    He had many gifts – of course he could talk with the best of them, but to me his best gift was working with his hands. From his years at Olsen Hardware, fixing appliances and helping customers find what they needed to get the job done, to helping his soulmate, Grandma, stir something in the kitchen, to in his later years, making keepsakes out of wood in his shop. I loved hearing about his work shop and enjoyed seeing his projects and of course LOVED receiving them. To have something that he carved with his two hands the rest of my life, will always bring me a smile and make me feel close to him. You want something done, then be willing to get your hands dirty and help out, and gosh darn it, work hard! May we always remember that!

    I don’t know of many people whose lives were not impacted by our Grandpa. He cared so much about his community. He cared much about his family. He was a faithful follower of Christ. And however he impacted your life, I hope that you carry that inspiration with you every day. He wasn’t one to take accolades or ask for anything in return, he just wanted to do his part. He cared. So may all of us remember to care – care for others, care for our family, care for our neighbors, and care for our country. Let’s leave an impact on our generation, and the next generation, as our Grandpa and all our loved ones of his generation, have done for us. Grandma and Grandpa laid the foundation of our lives. They worked hard for us, and it is our job to honor their hard work and dedication the rest of our lives.

    And I can only imagine that when the time came and God came to him and said I am ready to take you home, he was smiling and said “you betcha.” Grandpa may you know that we will always throw a fishing line in for you, may you know we will get that grand buck for you, may you know we will “bid ‘em like you got them” in pinochle for you, may you know that we will lift up our black coffee mug for you, may you know that we will sneak a cookie for you, may you know that we will strive to serve our community with love and encouragement like you, may you know that we will always get our hands dirty and give a helping hand for you, may you know we will honor our family like you, and may you know that we will continue to make you proud. You are our Grandpa, always have been, and always will, until we meet again. We love you Grandpa Ed!

  17. Sorry to hear of your family’s loss. I have great memories of being able to experience a few fishing trips with him where he shared his knowledge and whit. And his chokecherry and plum wine was considered a worldy possession when he filled our college appartment fridge. Blessing to all the family.

  18. I never met Ed but as one of Lester’s step-children I was a lucky listener as Les shared many memories of his family. Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss. My heart and prayers are with you all.

  19. Ed was the heart and soul of Hillsboro. We are honored to have known him, and like so many others, we will miss his presence. But his legacy goes on.

    Our prayers go out to Marlis, the children and the extended family. God bless you all.

  20. Sending thoughts and prayers and condolences to the family. Growing up in Hillsboro we all knew Ed and saw his smile. I remember looking at the bikes at the store and he would help with anything. RIP Ed you will be missed.

  21. Sending our sympathy and love to the whole Olsen family. We loved Ed and our lives were enriched by knowing him. We enjoyed many fun moments from discussing fishing at Red Willow and Strawberry Lake, to meeting him at the golf course during his mowing days, to listening to stories of his experiences. He and Marlis were two of the first people we met when we moved to Hillsboro. He truly taught us the meaning of a well lived life. We will miss him.

  22. Our deepest condolences to the family. Ed was a great guy and the best sense of humor anyone has seen. The most kind, considerate man I’ve ever know. He’ll be deeply missed by anyone that new him and respected him.

  23. Olsen Family,
    Our thoughts and prayers are with your family! Our parents had many great times together. I remember is hardy laugh very well! Your parents would stay at our house in Towner when the Class B tournament was in Minot! They were a fun couple to visit with! Cherish the many memories you have with him!

    Rynette Hjelmstad Burckhard
    Arlen Hjelmstad
    Ranee Hjelmstad Zens

  24. Ed was the best person ever. He always had a smile and always stopped and visited even if it was a quick hi! We will all miss him. Every time I use the table by chair I will think of him. Marlis and
    Ed are the best people ever. We will miss him especially Lillie. She loved visiting with Ed out in his shop and he always took time out for her. Thank you and God Bless

  25. I did not know Ed that long. In the mid 2000s, I was doing carpentry work for Jerry and Kathy at their home in Park Rapids. One day in the afternoon, he pulled up in his truck, and I was introduced to Jerry’s dad. He seemed like a nice guy-a real down to earth person. At the end of my work day, I looked down at the lake. There was Ed, sitting on a lawn chair, beer on the ground next to him, and casting a rod into the water.
    I grabbed a couple of beers and went down there. We bullshitted, laughed, and he asked my advice on catching the fish right there.
    From than on, we were friends that respected each other, and the thought of Ed has always brought a smile to my face-and always will.

  26. I so remember Ed’s smile, his ready caring, help and advice. He truly was a patriarch of Hillsboro. Blessings to each of you within the family of Ed Olsen.

  27. I am so sorry that I never got to meet you in person. But your son’s deep love for you and your big, warm and caring family, tells me all about your beautiful personality. Now your graceful shaped woooden cross/angel will be even more precious to me.

    Daughter of your first cousin Aage; Turid

  28. Grandpa I am going to miss you but know you are always going to be with us. Please keep watch over us and especially your oldest son Jerry my dad as he battles cancer.

  29. My sympathies to the Olsen family. I was saddened to hear of Ed’s passing. Ed was a “character” like no other, and truly one of the nicest people I have ever met. RIP my friend, I am sure God had his landing net out for you and HE knows he has landed a keeper!!!

  30. With deepest sympathy to the Olsen family. Thinking of all of you at this sad time and praying all your memories will bring you comfort in the days ahead.

  31. The Ennen family sends our sincerest condolences to Sonny’s family. We have you all in our thoughts and prayers. We have only great memories of the Olsen family from our Erie days! May God bless you all! Hang on to the memories as they are priceless! Sending hugs!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  32. We’re happy to have had Ed pass through our lives, definitely one of a kind. Always have my wooden cross that Ed carved close by. Prayers & hugs for Marlys & family.
    Helen & Gordy Broten

  33. Condolences to the Olsen family. Not only will his family miss him but the community will also miss him! RIP Mr Olsen!

  34. Our heartfelt sympathy to all of the Olsen family. Ed was such a nice man and will be missed greatly.
    Dave and Barb (Flieth) Ferguson

  35. My deepest sympathies to the family of Ed Olsen. The community has lost one of it’s pillars of decency. We honor his life by living ours as he did. He was not tall in stature but he was indeed a giant of a man. Rest In Peace Ed.

  36. Our condolences Marlis to you and rest of family. Your Sonny was one of a kind. Always, always a smile or laugh coming from him when we got to see him. He is now lighting up the heavens with his Sonny smile and thunder now will be his laugh rolling around. Bless him and bless your family .

  37. Our condolences to the entire Olsen family, Ed was such an inspiration to so many, not to mention a character that no one will ever forget. We are praying for and thinking about his family every day. May your memories of him and knowing the impact he had on so many give you all a bit of peace during this difficult time.

  38. The twinkle in his eyes and the smile on his face, memories to last forever…amazing gifts he gave to all.
    “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life”

  39. My sincere sympathy, along with my thoughts and prayers to the family of Ed Olsen…May he rest in the peace of the Risen Lord…

  40. We are so very sorry to hear about Ed. He was always so good to us when we were first married and living in Hillsboro back in the early 70’s. We always enjoyed visiting with him, he was a great man. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.
    Sincerely, Reuben and Jennifer Rud

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