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Dorothy O. Olson


1918 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Dorothy O. Olson Obituary
Arizona and former Vermont resident Dorothy Oshlag Olson, 99, died peacefully September 27 in Tucson, AZ, following major surgery.

Born April 12, 1918, in New York City, daughter of Joseph Oshlag and Bessie (Brause) Oshlag, she and her family soon moved to New Rochelle, N.Y. where she grew up. Her father, who emigrated from Poland as a youth with his siblings and widowed mother, was a dentist. Her mother was a talented seamstress who stayed at home to raise Dorothy and her brother. Interviewed when she was 94, Dorothy described her childhood as "idyllic."

Dorothy attended New Rochelle High School and found her niche on the high school newspaper. She thrived at Oberlin College, (Oberlin, Ohio, Class of 1939), where she majored in philosophy with a minor in art history. There she also worked on the newspaper all four years. Her first job after graduation was for a weekly newspaper in Bronxville, N.Y. She joined the magazine, Architectural Forum, in 1941 as production manager, getting to know the contemporary architects of the era, including Frank Lloyd Wright. Then she went "uptown" to Time, Inc., where her job as production supervisor included producing the "pony editions" of the magazine for the troops serving abroad.

Time sent her to post-war Europe to find a place to print Time and Life magazines. She recommended Paris. In Paris, she had to locate supplies, work with the unions, and organize the circulation of the publications all with only one year of college French. This was a time that brought out all of her ingenuity and became the topic of memorable stories. After returning from Paris in 1947, she joined the broadcaster, Erik Barnouw, at the Columbia University Center for Mass Communications, producing public service films, radio, and articles for nonprofit organizations. Their short films won many awards, and Dorothy stayed there for 17 years.

Dorothy had met Frances Flaherty, wife of filmmaker, Robert J. Flaherty. Mrs. Flaherty was organizing the board for what was then the International Film Seminars, based in Vermont, and Dorothy joined the board. There she met Flaherty's attorney, Paul N. Olson, a bachelor who lived in West Brattleboro. They married in 1963, requiring an adjustment to country life and to two Springer spaniels. The home they shared for 40 years on Barrows Road included Dorothy's pottery studio, her flower gardens, Paul's meticulous vegetable garden, and the pond where they would take morning swims in the summer with the dogs.

Paul and Dorothy were both deeply involved in the support of arts and education in Vermont especially the Marlboro Music School and Festival, Marlboro College, the Brattleboro Music Center, and the Putney School. Dorothy's cooking and entertaining were legendary. She relished having a houseful of musicians. She and Paul formed lasting friendships with many of the talented musicians, scholars and artists associated with these organizations.

An active potter and film maker, Dorothy was a committed supporter of the arts and artists. She was elected to the Board of the Vermont Arts Council in 1977-81 and 1993-96 and served as the first female chair of its board. She was appointed to the National Crafts Council, a task force that traveled the nation to interview craftsmen about the state of their art, and reported to the National Endowment for the Arts. Dorothy and Marlboro film-maker, Alan Dater, co-produced Bridge of Fire, a documentary about two potters, which was shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Louvre and earned a C.I.N.E. Golden Eagle Award and the Best Media Work at the Festival International du Film sur l'Art in Montreal.

When Paul retired from his law practice, he and Dorothy moved to a retirement community in Tucson, Ariz. In Tucson, Dorothy plunged into local activities. Dorothy made pottery, took courses at the University of Arizona, attended and supported the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, tutored area youth in reading, attended lectures and, of course, gave and attended dinner parties. She participated in residents' committees at the community, and was particularly proud of the ceramic markers identifying the flora in the gardens she caused to be placed there. Dorothy was predeceased by her husband, her parents and brother, and is survived by her first cousins, Phyllis Kisloff of Riverdale, N.Y., and Elliot Brause of New Haven, CT., nieces, Elizabeth W. Olson of Dorset, VT, and Jean Olson Langway of Atlanta, GA, second cousins and many devoted friends. She will be remembered for her constant curiosity, sense of humor and capacity for friendship.

A memorial service will be held in Tucson on Saturday, October 28 in the Community Room at Brookdale Santa Catalina Villas at 4:00 p.m. A memorial service will be held in Marlboro Vermont, at a later time. Memorial gifts in her honor may be given to the Dorothy O. Olson and Paul N. Olson Music Fund at Marlboro College, Literacy Connects of Tucson or another .
Published in Brattleboro Reformer on Oct. 13, 2017
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