Willard Francis Olson, 90, of McVille, ND, died peacefully on July 14, 2021 surrounded by family. Willard was born on April 2, 1931 on a farm south of Pekin, ND to Bendick and Ida (Arlien) Olson. He was the second youngest of 12 children and graduated from Pekin High School in 1949. Willard married his high school sweetheart, Vernita Bergsrud, on October 29, 1954.
Willard’s life was dedicated to education. He received his B.S. degree from Mayville State University and his M. Ed. Degree in School Administration from the University of North Dakota. He began his career teaching in a one room school in rural Nelson County ND and subsequently held various teaching and school administration positions in the army (793 Field Artillery Battalion B stationed in Ansbach Germany where he taught soldiers who could not read above the 4th grade level), North Dakota (Hillsboro) and Minnesota (Barrett, Garden City, Byron, Little Falls, Lake City). In addition, he was a member of many civic and education boards, commissions, and leagues, including the Minnesota State High School League. Willard retired in 1992 after 21 years as Superintendent at Lake City MN. He was honored to be chosen as the Lake City Days “Grand Parade” Honoree in 1992.
Willard and Vernita retired to their Aitkin, MN lake home and spent winters in various locations in the southwest United States. In 2012, they moved back to ND to the Nelson County Health System assisted living facility in McVille. Willard and Vernita were happily married for 60 years before Vernita passed away in 2015.
Willard was an active member of his local Lutheran church, Kiwanis club, American Legion Post 182 of Pekin ND and local community. He loved to play cards, especially Pinochle, attend auctions, refinish furniture, socialize, and travel. Willard also loved genealogy and history, including the history of Pekin, ND. In 2018, Willard was selected for the Veterans Honor Flight of ND/MN and was happy to experience the honor with his son Randy. Most importantly, Willard loved his family and enjoyed spending time with all of them – children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, and in-laws.
Willard is survived sons Randal (Jodi) of Minnewaukan ND and Ross (Bill Hudson) of Minneapolis MN, grandchildren Tony (Jessica) Olson of Thief River Falls, MN, Abbey (Adam) Landgren of Thief River Falls, MN, Mateo Olson and Arecelia Olson of Minneapolis, MN, great-grandchildren Brody, Madisyn, Jayce, Makson, Joette, and Marek in addition to many nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents, wife Vernita, and his brothers and sisters: Jennet, Grace Blanche, Stella, Ingmore, Olive, Thorman, Frank, Kenneth, Albert, Delorice and Alf.
A special thank you to the Nelson County Health Services staff for their care of Willard.
Funeral services will be held at Sheyenne Lutheran Church in rural Pekin ND on August 6 at 11am with lunch to follow. Funeral arrangements are handled by the Stanley Iverson Funeral Home in McVille. Please direct any memorials to the Nelson County Health Services Foundation or the Morning Star Parish for the care and maintenance of their rural cemeteries.
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