PALM HARBOR, Fla.– Football, Fighter Pilot, Faith, and Family were hallmarks of Dick Olson, a Lorain, Ohio civic and business leader in the 1960's and 70's. Olson, 80, died November 16 in Palm Harbor, Florida.|
Football was a big part of Dick's life. "Olie", as he was known, grew up in Lorain and graduated from Lorain High School in 1949 with All-State honors in football. Heavily recruited by Ohio State and Notre Dame, he opted instead to accept an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he would eventually become captain of the Navy 1953 team, earn All-American honors at center and be chosen to play in the North-South College All-Star game in the Orange Bowl. Football also played a significant part in his family life. It was after the 1953 Navy-Notre Dame game in South Bend that Dick met the love of his life, Doris King. She was a Neiman Marcus model and Miss Illinois in the 1951 Miss America Pageant. He was smitten. The Saturday night blind date turned into a storybook Navy wedding six months later. Together they shared 44 wonderful years of marriage filled with love, laughter and seven children.
Commissioned a Naval Officer upon graduation in 1954, Olson was appointed to Flight School in Pensacola, Florida where he flew the Navy's top jet trainer, the F9F-2 Panther, and the swept-wing F9F-8 Cougar. While in Pensacola the Navy chose him as the first graduate student to become an advanced jet flight instructor. After two years as an instructor Olson was assigned to the attack carrier USS Kearsarge (CV-33) and stationed at Miramar Naval Air Station flying FJ4B Fury jets as part of the
U.S. Navy's Cold War era task forces. He would eventually log more than 1200 hours and 300 takeoffs and landings in fighter aircraft.
After completing his six-year commitment in 1960 Olson left the Navy, returning to Lorain where he built
a successful transportation company, Olson Express, hauling freight for U.S. Steel and developed a Lorain Port facility with storage tanks and bulk warehouses to move products to and from Ohio. He devoted considerable energy to the Lorain community throughout the 1960's and was considered one of its most active civic leaders. He was instrumental in the creation of the Lorain International Festival, also serving as its President, and helped establish Lorain Catholic High School. He served as President of several other organizations including the Lorain Chamber of Commerce. In 1968 he was named Lorain's Man of the Year and in 1970 was inducted into the inaugural class of the Lorain Sports Hall of Fame. He also served on the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Trustees.
Dick was a man of deep faith and devoted to his family. While he and Doris were raising seven children
he also energetically supported Catholic youth, sports, academic, and religious programs. He was an active parishioner at St. Stanislaus and St. Peter in Lorain and St. Ladislas in Westlake before moving to Florida. In retirement, he enjoyed golf and traveling to visit his children and grandchildren.
Dick was preceded in death by his wife Doris in 1998.
He is survived by his seven children; sons, David (Teresa) of Palm Harbor, Fla., Donald (Elizabeth) of Westlake, OH, and Richard Jr. (Lucia) of San Diego, CA; daughters, Denise (Mike) Duffy of Woodbridge, VA, Diane (John) Reichl of Fairfax, VA, Deneen (Jim) Uhrman of Kennesaw, GA, and
Dorie (Ed) Schiefer of Fairfax, VA. He also leaves 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Published in The Morning Journal on Nov. 23, 2011