Richard Donald (“R.D.” or “Dick”) Olsen died in Fargo on Monday, May 4, due to the
Coronavirus. R.D. was born August 13, 1929 in Sisseton, SD, son of Clare and Florence (Waldieck)
Olsen. He grew up in Sisseton where he graduated from high school in 1947; the town and his
childhood memories remained important for the rest of his life.
On December 27, 1951 he married his beloved Jeanie (Sauer) in Brown’s Valley, Minnesota. They
had four children and were married more than 60 years when she passed away in 2012. Nearly
inseparable as a couple they traveled the country and much of England, rarely spending a single
night apart. They lived for almost 50 years in their home in North Fargo, a memorable gathering
place dear to family and friends. Dick and Jeanie were devoted, supportive parents who centered
their life around family, always including their kids (and often kids’ friends) in meals, games, events,
and epic summer camping trips.
Drafted into the US Marine Corps during the Korean War, Dick served stateside for two years in
Alexandria, Virginia, where he and Jeanie first lived. He returned to college in 1953 and received his
bachelor’s degree from Moorhead State University in 1956 (earlier attending Huron College), and
master’s degree from the University of South Dakota in 1958, both in history. He began a long and
successful career in education, teaching history in Las Vegas for one year before returning to Fargo
Central and North High Schools, retiring in 1988. He then taught part-time for more than ten years
at Concordia College and NDSU. He received numerous teaching awards, including the most
treasured that came from students at Fargo North; he was inducted into the North High School Hall
of Fame in 2002. Students and colleagues admired R.D. for his mastery of content and witty
lectures, and remembered him with affection and gratitude. His irreverent sense of humor enlivened
all his classes, and many people thought he was one of the most genuinely funny people they ever
met. For the 1968-1969 school year he taught at Dr. Challoner’s Grammar School in Amersham,
England as part of the Fulbright Exchange program; this year abroad led to many subsequent trips
and helped inspire his family’s love of travel and “the old country.”
R.D. was nearly as well known for his love of old cars, owning close to 150 in his lifetime. His
devotion to history and cars complemented each other, as did another passion: historic aviation,
which he indulged through precise wood models built from scratch and a lifelong study of World
War I and the Battle of Britain. Love of history held much of his world together, and no one in the
family ever saw him read a piece of fiction. He and Jeanie also loved to travel and spend time with
children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Gatherings at the family house often included
croquet on the lawn or long, raucous card games that frequently devolved into laughing more than
playing the game.
Richard was preceded in death by his wife Jeanie and his parents. He is survived by his sister, Mary
Lois Long, Great Falls, MT, daughters Catherine and Constance (Greg), Fargo, and Elizabeth
(Kevin), Minneapolis, and son Christopher (Jennifer), Terre Haute, IN; six grandchildren, Molly
Fern, West Fargo, Riley Verret, St. Paul, MN, Cody Verret, Fargo, and Emma, Charlotte, and Ross
Olsen, all Terre Haute, IN; and two great-grandchildren, Brennan and Ashton Fern, West Fargo.
Due to the Coronavirus there will be no public visitation or funeral at this time, but his family plans
to have an open memorial service as soon as possible. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to
The Alzheimer’s Research Foundation (www.alzheimersresearchfoundation.com) or Johns Hopkins
University’s COVID-19 research team (www.hopkinsmedicine.org/coronavirus/giving.html).
A recording of the service will be posted to Boulger Funeral Home’s website on Monday, May 11, 2020.