Donna Jean Olson, 1956

Spring 2017 (May 1, 2017)

Donna Jean Olson, age 82, of Lake Geneva, Wis., passed away peacefully Jan. 10, 2017, at Skaalen Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Stoughton, Wis., following a struggle with Parkinson’s disease dementia.  

She was born on Jan. 5, 1935, in Calamus, Iowa, the daughter of Thore and Sena Olson.  Donna attended St. Olaf College for two years and then transferred to Luther College where she received a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education. Donna's master’s degree in religious education was from the New York Theological Seminary, and her master’s degree in developmental reading was from Cardinal Stritch University. As director of Christian education, she served four years at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Commack, Long Island, N.Y., and for five years at First Lutheran Church in Beaver Dam, Wis.  For over 24 years, she worked as a reading specialist in the Lake Geneva Elementary Schools.

Donna was active in the National Education Association, Wisconsin State Reading Association, Wisconsin Education Association Council, Past President of the Lake Geneva Teacher’s Association, Grievance Committee Chair, Past President of the Southern Lakes Reading Council, and the Student Assistance Program. She was a longtime member of the negotiating team of the Lake Geneva School District. Donna served as secretary of the Geneva Lake Museum Board of Directors, and was a volunteer tutor of Hispanic adults. She received the 1986 Lake Geneva Teacher of the Year award for Special Services.

Her Christian faith was very important to her. She taught Sunday School and Adult Bible Study at Williams Bay Lutheran Church and served on their Church Council. She loved to travel. There were a number of trips to Norway to visit relatives and study genealogy. She also did some post-graduate studies in England and Ireland, and made visits to Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Israel, and Australia. Donna's favorite trip was with Global Volunteers to help build a school in Pommern, Tanzania. She liked to bring in to her classes relevant and interesting items from her travel experiences. Donna happily attended the special events of her nieces and nephews and loved attending the Lyric Opera and the Milwaukee Symphony, and enjoyed so much her Dinner Club. 

Surviving are her sisters, Elaine (Olson) Oehler ‘59 (Paul) of Elkhorn, Wis., and Esther (Dean) Nelson of Madison, Wis.; a sister-in-law, Lenora Olson of DeWitt, Iowa; nieces and nephews, Michael Olson of Donahue, Iowa, Torrey (Kathryn) Nelson of Madison, Sienna (John) Oehler Nania of Omaha, Neb., Greta (Todd) Oehler Kapp of Red Granite, Wis., Robert Olson of Grand Mound, Iowa, Russell (Kristin) Nelson of Minneapolis, James (Kristi) P. Oehler of Elkhorn, Wis., grandnieces, grandnephews, and cousins.

Preceding Donna in death were her parents; a sister, Frances; a brother, Robert and a nephew, Jeffrey Nelson.

Visitation and Service of Christian Burial was Jan. 13, 2017, at Our Savior's Lutheran Church, rural Calamus with the Rev. William Runaas officiating. Burial followed at Kvindherred Cemetery.

A memorial service was also held at Williams Bay Lutheran Church, Williams Bay, Wis., Jan. 21, 2017.

Memorials may be designated to the Frances and Donna Olson Seminary Scholarship Endowment Fund, Fund for Leaders, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 8765 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL  60631-4101 or to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Condolences may expressed and a photo tribute viewed at

Special thanks for the loving care provided for nearly four years by the compassionate staff of Skaalen Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Stoughton.

Schultz Funeral Home, Grand Mound, cared for the arrangements.

Donna Jean Olson