Irene Anna Olson
Irene Anna Olson passed away at her home in Seattle on April 14, 2020, from bile duct cancer. She was born in Tukums, Latvia, on February 24, 1944, to Irene and Nikolajs Beleiciks. Her maternal grandparents were Alexandra Michailovsky of Riga and Michael Dulimow, a Cossack officer from Kargalskaya. Her family fled Latvia while she was still an infant, and she grew up in a displaced persons camp in the British sector of Germany. In 1950, she immigrated to the United States with her mother and two brothers. They settled in a housing project in White Center and were joined by her great-aunt Irene Michailovsky. Fluent in four languages (Latvian, Russian, German, and English), she attended Evergreen High School, where she was the valedictorian of her class despite spending six months in a tuberculosis sanatorium her junior year.
She went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from the University of Washington in 1967. After college, she taught Russian and German at Renton High School. A skilled pianist, singer, and dancer, Irene enjoyed performing with the Trejdeksnitis Latvian dance group. In 1968, she moved to Germany, where she taught in Frankfurt and worked as a translator. Her adventures in Europe included bicycling to Greece and visiting the Soviet Union. In 1971, she returned to Seattle and married Wallace S. Olson. They lived in a cottage on the beach near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal and enjoyed watching the sunset over the Olympic mountains. Irene attended graduate school in Germanics while Wally worked as a printer for the Boeing Company. They later had three children and moved to a house near Madison Middle School. Irene was an active member of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the Seattle Latvian community for over sixty years, including serving as director of the Seattle Latvian School. Later in life, she sang for the Vashon Island Chorale.
In 1993, after her husband passed, Irene began a new career in elementary education while raising three children as a single parent. She accepted a position as librarian at Hazel Valley Elementary and doggedly pursued professional development. In 2000, she joined the Renton School District, serving for five years as Vice Principal of Bryn Mawr Elementary and twelve years as Principal of Tiffany Park Elementary before retiring in 2017. Under her leadership, Tiffany Park became one of the top-performing schools in the district. She was a regional leader in implementing positive behavioral interventions and support systems. Irene was particularly proud to work in a school with many immigrant families, since she fondly remembered the generosity of her own teachers when she first arrived in Seattle as a refugee.
Irene was an inspiration for countless friends, fellow educators, neighbors, and students. Her enthusiasm, loving heart, and sense of humor will be sorely missed. She is survived by two brothers, Igor Beleiciks of Seattle and George Beleiciks of Vancouver, Wash.; one daughter, Sonja Olson Feuerborn of Seattle; two sons, Alex Olson of Bowling Green, Ky., and Max Olson of Seattle; three grandchildren, Ocean, Skaista, and Igor; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. She will be buried at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in Seattle. Donations in her memory may be made to the Seattle Latvian School or the Renton Regional Community Foundation's Irene Olson Scholarship Fund.
Published in The Seattle Times on Apr. 20, 2020.