Robert Lee Olson, 86, of Aurora, passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at the Edgewood Memory Care Facility in Virginia, Minn.
Robert was born on Sept. 4, 1934, to Ragnar and Alice (Anderson) Olson in Gilbert, Minn. He attended school in Gilbert through the eighth grade when the family moved in 1948 to Virginia. He graduated with honors from the Mt. Iron High School in 1952. He was employed by Stearns & Rogers Construction, The Duluth, Mesabi and Iron Range Railroad Survey Crew, W.S. Moore Mining, and US Steel’s Oliver Mining Company from 1953 to 1960. In 1953, he married Lauretta Hannan. He worked at many jobs during this time due to strikes and layoffs.
In 1960 Robert enrolled in Virginia Junior College during the day and worked midnight shifts on the Duluth Winnipeg and Pacific Railroad. After graduating with an Associate of Arts Degree, he enrolled in the University of Minnesota Duluth and graduated in June 1964 with an Elementary teaching degree.
Robert was employed as a 4th grade teacher by the Aurora Hoyt Lakes School District. Because of poor working conditions, he was very active in the Local Minnesota Federation of Teachers Union and served as the Chairperson for the MFTs Committee on Political Education. During this time, teachers in Minnesota gained teacher seniority, teacher tenure, the right to strike, and the right to collective bargaining.
Robert earned a Masters’ Degree in Curriculum Instruction in 1967 and a Specialist Degree in Educational Administration at UMD and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. During his 31 years in Aurora Hoyt Lakes and Biwabik, he served as the Director of Special Services, which included special education, Chapter I, and all other federal programs. Robert served as a principal in 1983 in Biwabik as well as Community Education Director and principal of Pre-K through 8th grade. During Superintendent changes, he served as both the Acting Superintendent and Interim Superintendent on several occasions. He officially retired as an administrator in 1995 but continued to serve on the Mesabi East School Board until 2015. He dedicated over 50 years to education and the Aurora Hoyt Lakes, Mesabi East School Districts.
In the community, Robert was a member of the Aurora Moose, the Aurora Lions Club, Phi Delta Kappa in Duluth, Retired MASA, and the Range Association of Retarded Citizens. He was a longstanding member of the Faith Lutheran Church in Hoyt Lakes, was active on the church council, and was the church treasurer for over 27 years. He was an avid basketball fan and attended State Basketball Tournaments with his brothers for many years.
As a concerned citizen, Robert wrote many, many letters to the newspapers in the area and to political leaders throughout Minnesota. He also wrote to Congress and our Presidents. He campaigned door to door for the Democratic Farmer Labor Party candidates both statewide and nationally. He never missed voting in any election throughout his life.
Robert loved all children, including his own, his grandchildren, great grandchildren and his students. His chosen profession, as well as the many hours spent in his retirement years, proved that he loved children of all ages.
Robert is survived by his four children, Kathy Dundovich (Mike) of San Diego, Jean Olson of Virginia, Sandy Billmeier of Aurora, and Robert Olson (Janet) of Aurora; eight grandchildren; 11 great grandchildren; his sister, Marion; and brother, Melvin; sisters-in-law, Marlys and Betty; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by the mother of his children, Lauretta; his parents, Alice and Ragnar; his sister, Joyce; his brothers, Ralph, Harold, Rich, Floyd; his sister-in-law, Carol; and his brothers-in-law, Marvin Kaiser and Harvey Wickman.
He will be forever missed but not forgotten by friends and family.
Memorial will be held in the Spring of 2021.