Irene Anna Olson
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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.
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Memories & Condolences
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12 entries
June 8, 2020
worked with Irene on several RSD committees. She was a wonderful advocate door children. She was encouraging to those at risk students I tutored.
Diane Merrill
April 24, 2020
I met Irene when her children attend West Seattle Christian School. She had a big heart and loved inspiring children to read. Her sense of humor was a gift. I was blessed to attend her retirement party and hear what a respected educator and friend she was to so many. Prayers to her special family. She will be missed.
Audrey & Jon Tharp, Auburn WA
April 23, 2020
I have many good memories of Irene when I was growing up as a good friend of Sonja's. She was warm and kind with a great laugh! I remember a school project that involved a video taped play of some sort, dress up clothes, etc. Irene laughed so hard watching the video that she cried. I can still hear her! Sonja, Max and Alex I am so sorry that she is no longer with you and your families. Your mom lives on in many people.
Daisye Orr
April 22, 2020
I was blessed to have known Irene when I was the Principal of West Seattle Christian School, where her three children attended: Sonja, Max & Alex. Irene was the school Librarian and did a "Top Notch" job in organizing our Library. I was also acquainted with her husband, Wally and was very sad when he passed away. Several Staff Members from West Seattle Christian School, including myself, attended his Memorial Service.

Irene was a lovely, wonderful friend. She will be missed.
Jan Ellis
April 21, 2020
My prayers go out to Sonja, Max and Alex. Irene was so proud of you and she loved her grandchildren. Irene had a big heart and showered the children and staff of Tiffany Park with her gentle guidance. I was fortunate to work with Irene and call her my friend. Our days were fun and will not be forgotten.
Sharon Keil
April 21, 2020
Irene was always thoughtful and kind. She was a devoted and involved parent, and friend to all she met. Her life is an inspiration. My thoughts are with her family.
Madeline Klem
April 21, 2020
I worked with Irene at West Seattle Christian School back in the 90s. She always had a kind word , a smile, a laugh for everyone. Irene always had an encouraging word She will be missed by those who were blessed to know her. RIP Irene. To her comforted.
Anita (VanDusen)Kelly
April 20, 2020
Loving Light Dishgarden
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Minnie Caruso
April 20, 2020
An incomparable woman.
"Mama Olson" is loved and missed by many.
April 20, 2020
As an active member of the PTA at Tiffany Park Elementary, she praised the volunteers even if no body else did. She was definitely a light in our world.
Claire Jonson
April 20, 2020
Irene will be remembered with deep affection by her friends in the Seattle Latvian community.
April 20, 2020
My prayers are with the family!
Diane Walter
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