O. Russell Olson, 89, Rochester

Published 7:42 am Sunday, October 20, 2013

Judge O. Russell Olson died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, at Shorewood Senior Campus in Rochester. He was 89 years old. He was born on the family farm, June 19, 1924, in McKenzie County, N.D., to Halvor and Ida (Trytten) Olson. The family had no electricity or running water. During these formative years on the dustbowl during the Depression, Russell and his nine siblings learned the values of hard work, discipline and respect for one’s family and the value of education.

O. Russell Olson

O. Russell Olson

The Olson family moved to a farm near Windom in 1939. Russell graduated from Windom High School in 1941 and enrolled at St. Olaf College at age 17. His college education was interrupted while Russell served as a meteorologist (lieutenant) with the United States Army Air Corps (Air Force) from 1943 to 1946. He returned to St. Olaf after the war, graduated in 1948, then attended law school at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1951. On June 23, 1952, Russell married Jean Stemsrud. He practiced law in Albert Lea and was a well respected trial lawyer and the Freeborn County Attorney during the 1950s. Gov. Karl Rolvaag appointed O. Russell a district court judge in Rochester (May of 1963). He had a distinguished legal career as a district court judge from 1963 to 1990. Over the years, he became known to most as “Judge.” He was a member of the Governor’s Crime Study Commission (1968-1969), president of the Minnesota District Court Judges Association (1970-1971), a founder of and the first president of the alternatives correctional program PORT (1970-1971), an original member of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission (1978), a visiting acting justice for the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1973 (author of 14 opinions) and was an adjunct professor for the University of Minnesota Law School where he served as the trial judge for many trial school classes for more than 30 years. Judge Olson was active in Rotary and also an active member of the Zumbro Lutheran Church, where he served a term as president. He enjoyed gardening, fishing, golf, reading, Gophers football and the great outdoors. Russell loved traveling with Jeannie and spending time with his friends. O. Russell was a great conversationalist and an avid bridge player. He loved his family and will be greatly missed.

The family expresses their sincere thanks and appreciation to the wonderful people at Shorewood Senior Campus. The family also expresses a special thank you and appreciation to Dr. Gertrude (Truda) Tyce, for the comfort, care and companionship she brought to Russell, particularly during the last few years.

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Survivors include his children Kurt (Barbara) Olson of Shoreview, Gary Olson of Rochester, Douglas Olson (Cristine Leavitt) of Arden Hills and Elizabeth (Michael) McLellan of Green Bay, Wis.; and six grandchildren Erik (Lindsay), Rebecca, Sydney, Reid, Brett and Blake. He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Jean; seven brothers; two sisters; and one granddaughter.

A memorial service for Judge Olson will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Zumbro Lutheran Church in Rochester. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes and also one hour prior to the service at the church. Memorials are suggested to The Rochester Reading Center in lieu of flowers.

Ranfranz & Vine Funeral Homes is located at 5421 Royal Place NW, Rochester, and can be reached by calling 507-289-3600 or online at www.ranfranzandvinefh.com.