Norman Edward Olson died on March 9, 2020 at 11:09 pm. He was 102 years old.
He dedicated his life to his wife Rene, family and was committed to serving faithfully as a minister for the Community of Christ church.
In recent years, Norman was often publicly celebrated for his service in World War II. In 1939, Norman and his brother signed up with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment on the day Canada announced it was recruiting soldiers to serve in the army. They had followed the news and wanted to help. Norman served until the war ended in 1945 and fought as an infantryman in the campaign across Italy.
Norman was born in Entwistle, Alberta in 1917. His father had left the United States a few years earlier to become a homesteader. The saying that Norman would often recount is that Canada would bet a section of land against fifteen dollars that they could starve you out in fifteen years. Norman’s early years were spent in a rough cabin built with hand tools and hand-hewn trees. The nearest neighbor was a day’s ride away by horse. Luckily, his mother Martina Olson was a terrific cook, making breads and pies and puddings that Norm could still taste almost a century later.
When Norm was 9, his family decided to move to town. This was a memorable time for Norman because it meant he could for the first time attend school. He was mortified to have to take lessons with kids younger than him but in no time caught up to his peers. It was also when Norman’s passion and curiosity for learning took hold.
At 14, Norman’s father died. He had to quit school to go to work to help support the family. It was a hard time, but he also felt proud that he could help by working for local farmers to add to the household and his mother’s meager income taking in laundry. Things got even harder during the Great Depression and his wage dropped to 10 cents per week. Survival became increasingly dependent on he and his brother’s hunting skills.
In 1942 while serving in the army, Norman met a bright and beautiful young woman (Rene) while on leave in Brighton, England. They fell in love and soon married. When the war ended, Norman returned to Edmonton, Alberta. By post, they arranged to have Rene take a boat across the Atlantic and then a train across Canada. Rene would bring their two-year-old daughter Christene, who Norman had never met. Unbelievably, she arrived on the very day at the very time that they had planned months ago. Thus began their partnership that would last over 50 years, until Rene’s death in 2000.
Rene and Norman together raised 5 children. Early in their marriage they joined the Community of Christ Church, and it was a source of dear friends, love and fun for their entire married lives. Norman worked the Canadian Railroad (CNR) for 35 years as an engineer, a job he loved.
He spent his life filled with gratitude, curiosity, and wonder. In his seventies, he took up the use of a computer, in the pre-Internet days of dial-up modems, and started painting beautifully. He wrote and told great stories. He enjoyed cooking and baking bread which he shared along with his lemon pudding and Seville orange marmalade. He was a minister and snooker player. He adored his wife, loved his kids and immensely loved his grandkids and great grandchildren. To know Norman was to love him. To bask in his his infectious love of life was inspiring; he made the world a better place.
No time on earth is ever long enough to share with the ones you love. Norman was beloved by his family and friends who will honour him and his remarkable life by remembering to laugh, to be kind to – as Norman would say ” all of God’s creatures,” and to make time to enjoy ice cream, one of his absolute favourite things in life.
Norman was predeceased by his wife, Helena Irene Olson, his daughter Christene Vandergaag and his eldest son, Norman Eric Olson.
Norman is survived by his children Valerie Smith-Nichols (Gary), Shelley Olson (Kirk Harris), Timothy Olson (Wendy Olson), his daughter-in-law Rita, and grandchildren Krista Marks, Kelly, Kevin and Cameron Vandergaag, Joshua, Daniel and Timothy Smith, Jessie Barger and Michael Olson, Kyrsten and Tyson Olson and Chelsea Harris and his 7 great grandchildren
There will be a Celebration of Life at a later time, date to be announced.
Norman was a remarkable man. Together we will celebrate and honor this beautiful person — a beautiful life.
*In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made in Norman’s name to World Accord.