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Zion Lutheran Church
Monday July 26th, 2021

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Ralph H. Olson

Ralph H. Olson, 90, of River Forest, IL., formerly of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, at rest June 16, 2021. Loving father of Chris (William) Resch, Paul (Hazel) Olson and Jane (Peter) Sholtz. Cherished grandfather of Daniel (Candi) Resch, Laura (Felipe) Sholtz, Luke Olson, Joel Resch, Lisa Sholtz, Carl Olson, Binbin Olson and Ingrid Olson. Three cousins and their families also survive him, Ron Carlson of Borrego Springs CA, Hans Warstrand and Marjo Sandholm of Sweden.

Ralph was the son of Swedish immigrants Harold Olson and Ingrid Olson (nee Carlsson). He was born in 1930 and grew up on the north side of Chicago, in an area that is now known as Andersonville. After graduating from Lane Technical High School in 1948, he attended the University of Montana College of Forestry, where he graduated in 1956. From 1952 to 1954, he served his country in the US Army Artillery in the Korean War and received the Korean Service Medal from the government of South Korea for his service there.

In 1957, he moved to St. Paul, where he entered graduate school at the University of Minnesota and earned his Masters of Forestry degree. In 1958, after his marriage to Margie Adolphson, they moved to Grand Rapids, which became his home until 2018.

Ralph taught for the State of Minnesota Division of Forestry as an instructor of the technician level forestry program in Grand Rapids. In 1962, he went out on his own as a consulting forester serving private landowners. Over his career as a consulting forester, he performed land and timber appraisals, organized tree plantings, tree thinnings and tree harvestings and gave advice to landowners throughout northern Minnesota on how to maximize their timber holdings. He also operated a topographical map sales business.

Ralph was heavily invested in family, in the community and in his profession. He raised three children. He was active in church and served as an usher at Zion Lutheran Church and potato peeler at Lutefisk Suppers. He was a Cubmaster at Pack 37. He was involved in politics. He served as chairman of the Itasca County Republican Party in the 1970s and 1980s. He was an election judge for many years. He was an organizer and leader of the Swedish Northern Lights Society, which celebrated Swedish culture and Swedish immigrants’ contribution to our country. For many years he hosted a weekly Swedish music program on KAXE radio station. He was active in many forestry professional organizations on the local, state and national level, two of which are the Society of American Foresters (50-year member) and the Minnesota Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers Association, of which he served as president.

One of Ralph’s passions was managing his eighty-acre tree farm. He loved being there, among the tall, stately Norway Pine trees on the ridge. He designed a timber management system for the tree farm, with a series of roads and trails. He was a real do-it-yourselfer. He once saw a picture of a specialized wood trailer in a forestry magazine, imagined how it could be brought to life and worked with a welder to design and construct it. This trailer remains in good shape to this day!

Ralph never forgot his Swedish roots. He maintained a life-long relationship with relatives in Sweden and made five trips to Sweden to visit them and to learn Swedish forestry techniques. His home was filled with Swedish sailing ships, Dala horses and photos of the Swedish countryside. Anything in the newspaper related to Sweden was cut out by him and put in an appropriate file.

In his later years, Ralph remarried, to MillieMae Hendricks of Bovey. He reached out to his children for help with life, moving to Anoka in 2018 to be near his daughters, and on to his son’s family home in suburban Chicago in early 2021. He passed away at home, among family. He will be dearly missed!

Services will be held on Monday, July 26th at 1 pm at Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids. MN. In lieu of flowers, please direct memorials to his family to help create a new college scholarship fund that Ralph wished his estate to establish at Lane Tech High School, for a Natural Resource scholarship. To sign the online guestbook or send condolences, visit https://chicagolandcremationoptions.com/obituary/r...

Arrangements entrusted to Chicagoland Cremation Options of Schiller Park, Illinois.


Remembering Ralph on the day of his Memorial Service in Grand Rapids, unable to join with his family and friends, I am thankful for his friendship through the years to our family. We all respected and appreciated and learned much from him. Ralph is not to be forgotten by us and our children.

Leatha Lemen Jul 26 2021 10:29 AM

I came into Ralph's life in 1992. We shared the same love of trees. A bonus for me was being included in Olson family events. Ralph was a unique person.

Sarah Chapman Jul 21 2021 5:17 PM

Dear friends. I am so sorry to hear about Ralph's passing. My prayers are with you.

Dave Jackson Jul 20 2021 2:43 PM

Dear Family of Ralph: Our condolences! Will not forget his love of Sweden and assisting us with our trip there in 2010. Blessings to your many memories! Sincerely Cindy and Ken Stapleton GR

Cindy Stapleton Jul 17 2021 4:27 PM

Dear Family of Ralph, I have often wondered recently why it was that I never seemed to run into Ralph in Grand Rapids. I knew him through AFS. We had a lot to say about things . He was always interesting and pleasant to visit with. I am so sorry for your loss. He was a very nice man.

Jean L. Hoshal Jul 15 2021 4:25 PM

Ralph was my host father when I was in Grand Rapids as an Exchange Student forty years ago. He was a kind man and often helped me with my English using cartoons on Sunday paper. We sat at the table and read together. He patiently explained the words I didn't understand. He was such a nice father. Thank you, I miss you, Dad.

Makiko Ishibashi Jun 28 2021 9:16 PM

A candle was lit in memory of Ralph Olson

Michael D. Nicolalde Jun 27 2021 8:47 AM

Ralph and I established a good relationship as being neighbors for 18 years. He would want me to come in and have coffee and always had a sweet to go with it. We limbed up a many trees together. It was a very sad day for me when he moved, but I am so happy that he was able to spend the last few years being close with his family! He is resting in peace now and I am thankful for that. Love and miss you all....

Julie Nelson Jun 25 2021 9:49 PM

A candle was lit in memory of Ralph Olson

Phillemon ( mungah mwaidza) Jun 24 2021 6:50 PM

We have good memories of Ralph, him climbing around our willow, straightening it out and touring forest areas, he managed, with him. His knowledge about trees and forestry was fascinating to me. He was a FRIEND. Miss you Ralph!

Bill Resch Jun 24 2021 10:45 AM