Eugene L. Olson

Eugene L. Olson

McFarland- Eugene “Red” Olson passed on peacefully at his home on Friday, July 20, 2012. Gene was born on May 2, 1925 in Waupun, WI, the only child of Eugene and Sarah Olson. He graduated from Waupun High School in 1943 and enlisted in the service. He served for 2 years where he taught knitting as therapy for wounded soldiers. After the service he attended Milwaukee State College, now the University of Milwaukee, and received his teaching degree. Gene, also known as “O” by his friends, touched the lives of generations of students throughout his teaching career. He never retired, and served 50 of his 62 years of teaching at McFarland High School as an English, Dramatic Arts, and Latin teacher. Gene was truly one of the founding fathers of McFarland High School. Recruited by the superintendent in 1961 before the school was built, Gene chose the Spartan as the mascot to symbolize the principles of courage and ingenuity as forged by “our intellectual great-grandparents, the Greeks”. This philosophy shaped his teaching by constantly encouraging and challenging students to work beyond their perceived limitations. His lessons of love, hard work and discipline resonate today in every student he taught. Gene was active in his 88th year of life creating an illustrated book of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, knitting, caring for his dogs Little John and Peggy, creating lesson plans for his Latin students and becoming active in both State and National politics. Despite all of his many accomplishments as a teacher, mentor, director, playwright and artist, he was unable to fulfill his expressed desire to write a letter of thanks to the school district and community for the opportunity to be the teacher that he is.

Gene leaves behind 62 years of students, colleagues and many personal friends. He is preceded in death by his parents and many of his beloved dogs. A special thanks to those that cared for him, particularly Paul Pankratz and Brenda Hahn from the UW Yahara Clinic. Special recognition to his “adopted” son Bill Habich, who assisted him throughout the last 20 years. In lieu of flowers, donations will be accepted to the Dane County Humane Society, the McFarland Education Foundation and the Eugene Olson Fine Arts Memorial Fund. A gathering of friends to celebrate Gene will be held on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at the McFarland House Café, 5923 Exchange Street, from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, with a sharing of memories beginning at 6:30 pm. A private interment at Roselawn Mausoleum will be held at a later date.

The following excerpts of a poem were found in Eugene’s great-grandfathers’ bible:
When I Am Dead
by Father John Bow

…I’d have them come, the “friendly few,” and say for me a prayer or two,
By kindness led;
Not many tears I’d have them shed,
Nor do I want much sung or said,
When I am dead.

To have them each come in alone and call me in the old sweet tone,
Would suit me best;
And then, without a sob or moan, go softly out and leave alone,
The dead to rest…