John Olmstead Olson, “Mr. Olson” to many of his clients, friends, and professional acquaintances, left this earthly world to plead his final case before the ultimate judge May 4, 2019. He slipped away peacefully Saturday morning in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, following a courageous, decade-long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 82.
Mr. Olson was born July 24, 1936, to Esther (Olmstead) and Harold Martinus Olson in Whitewater, Wisconsin. The youngest of five children born into the poverty of the Great Depression, his family members took care of each other, finding work where they could, growing produce in the garden to put food on the table, and learning early that hard work and determination were requirements for survival.
Upon graduation from Milton High School in 1954, Mr. Olson enlisted in the United States Air Force where he served as a tactical instructor training basic trainees at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. He later served as an airborne guidance systems technician and mechanic at Orlando Air Force Base, Orlando, Florida; and Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado.
He married Marjorie Reed, McKeesport, Pennsylvania, June 22, 1956, and the couple moved to Madison, Wisconsin, following Mr. Olson’s honorable discharge from the Air Force in May, 1958.
He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1961 and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1963. Upon his admission to the Wisconsin Bar, Mr. Olson joined the law firm of Nikolay, Jensen and Scott, Medford, Wisconsin.
He served as District Attorney of Taylor County from 1964-1969, Family Court Commissioner of Taylor County, and City Attorney for the City of Medford. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican endorsement for the office of Wisconsin Attorney General in 1966.
On May 15, 1969, he was appointed United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin by President Richard Nixon. As U.S. Attorney, Mr. Olson investigated and prosecuted federal crimes including the Vietnam War-era bombings at Camp McCoy and at Sterling Hall on the U.W. Campus, paper company pollution of the Wisconsin River, and prostitution across state lines. He considered the investigation of the Sterling Hall bombing and the subsequent arrest and conviction of one of the bombers, Karleton Armstrong, one of his greatest professional achievements.
He resigned as U.S. Attorney in 1974 and joined the private practice law firm Braden & Olson, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where he became well-known as a leading trial attorney for nearly 40 years.
On March 5, 2005, he married Patricia Dickinson, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Mr. Olson was a former member of the Governor’s Commission on Crime and Law Enforcement, and also served on the Advisory Board to the State Crime Laboratory. For more than a decade he represented the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility in disciplinary matters, and for five years he served on the Board of Bar Examiners. He received lifetime achievement honors from the Walworth County Bar Association in 2014.
Mr. Olson was a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Green Bay Packers, co-owner of J and L Countyline Automotive, Dorchester, Wisconsin, and he found time to pursue a variety of interests from curling to flying small airplanes, restoring and driving antique cars and trucks, woodworking, building the family cabin on Crescent Lake and later his home at Whitewater Lake, volunteering at his church and the local Lions Club, spending winter months with his wife and friends at the condo on Marco Island, and most of all, telling a good story.
John is sorely missed by his loving wife Patricia, Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Also grieving are his four children, Sheree Olson (Pete) Rogers, Punta Gorda, Florida; John Gary (Kim) Olson, Kenosha, Wisconsin; Dwight Terrence “Terry” (Carol) Olson, Wind Lake, Wisconsin; and Lawrence “Larry” Michael (Jeany) Olson, Dorchester, Wisconsin; their mother, Marjorie, Wind Lake, Wisconsin; along with grandchildren Erica, Kelsey, Evan, Nick, Jarrod, Ellie, Mike, and Jake, their spouses, and six great grandchildren.
Survivors also include Patricia’s four children, Bridget Dickinson (Marc) Lutz, Fontana, Wisconsin; Jon (Joanie) Dickinson, Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Jeffrey (Joanne) Dickinson, Winfield, Illinois; and Brenda Dickinson (Kurt) Ripkey, Fontana, Wisconsin; grandchildren, Kate, Megan, Chase, Mac, Drew, Reese, Ryan, Georgia, Drake, and Lillie, all whom he loved, counseled and mentored as his own.
Preceding him in death were his beloved mother and father, his sisters Bertha, Angie and Dawn, his hero and brother Ole, nephews Dick and Billy, and niece, Jeanna.
A visitation and a memorial service will be held Monday, May 13, 2019, at 6:00pm in the main chapel of Derrick Funeral Home. Visitation will be held from 3:00pm until the time of service at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, Mr. Olson’s family encourages donations to the Whitewater Lions Club in his memory. Checks should be made out to Whitewater Lions Club and mailed to PO Box 246, Whitewater, WI, 53190.
Mr. Olson’s family would like to thank the many caregivers and medical professionals who assisted him in his long journey with Parkinson’s disease, especially Emily Krueger and the staff at Ridge Stone Gardens, Aurora at Home Palliative and Hospice nurses Amber Ricci and Candy Boos, and exercise buddy Nolan McCourt. You represent your profession well and are making a positive difference in the lives of those in your care.
To post an online condolence please click the Guest Book tab on the left side of your screen.
Derrick Funeral Home and Cremation services is more than honored to be assisting the family of Mr. Olson.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of John Olmstead Olson, please visit our floral store.
Whitewater Lions Club
PO Box 246, Whitewater WI 53190