March 18, 1930 ~ January 15, 2021
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: