obit template2018-11-29T12:10:12+00:00

Jon Nels

Jon Nels Olson, age 63, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin passed away on May 19th 2022 from complications of Myotonic Dystrophy (MD) following a fall from his bicycle on April 26th.


He was preceded in death by his parents, Nels and Mary Olson, and is survived by wife Julia (always Julie to Jon) Vosper, daughter Ahna, son Ezra, sisters Lydie Raschka (Chris), Siri Olson (Jonathan Strom), Kari Olson (Charles Tien), brother-in-law James Vosper (Mary), and nieces, Maya Raschka, Solveig Olson-Strom, Madeline Tien, Kaia Tien, Sarah Vosper, nephew Jacob Vosper (Brittney) and grandniece and nephew Eloise and Atticus.                                            .


Jon was born on July 7, 1958 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He attended St. Olaf College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in mathematics. Jon and Julia met in college and they married in 1985.


Though he majored in mathematics, in college Jon also discovered a love of writing that led him to a rewarding, varied career as a journalist and author. He began as the editor of the Middleton Times-Tribune, then worked as a reporter and associate editor for The Business Journal, and produced the television show Business of Wisconsin.  From 1991 to 1995 he worked as a business reporter for the Milwaukee Journal and then from 1995 to 2009 worked for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a meticulous copy editor.  Jon also wrote freelance feature articles for the Ann Arbor Observer, Discover magazine and other publications. For an article on the Mackinac Bridge, he conquered his fear of heights and rode the capsule elevator in one of the bridge’s towers, and then climbed 40 feet up a narrow ladder to emerge through a hatch at the top overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. He also had publications in The Antioch Review, and wrote two novels, The Petoskey Stone and The Ride Home. Jon kept daily journals throughout his life and later wrote a blog, Just a Little Bit Cranky. Jon’s best forum for expressing his wry sense of humor was his eagerly anticipated annual Christmas letter.


Jon had a passion for biking. After graduating from Pioneer High School, Jon and two friends rode bikes from Seattle to San Diego, over 1,300 miles. Subsequently Jon took many long-distance rides around the Midwest. His lifelong dream was to bike across the country. Despite having been diagnosed with MD, he trained hard, planned extensively, and decided, in 2019, to ride from Astoria, Oregon to Astoria, Queens, New York, raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). He got as far as Michigan when he was hit by a car and hospitalized, ending his trip. Remarkably, he was back up on his bike within a year. Jon remains one of the largest individual fundraisers for the MDA.


Jon was devoted to his writing group of which he was a member for over twenty years. From the words of one long time member: “I feel so privileged to have known [Jon] for so long and, in a way, so well – in the way that you know someone when you share your roughest rough drafts with them, when you trust them to tell you the truth and be critical and insightful and kind, which Jon was, unfailingly.”


Toward the end of his life, Jon expressed deep contentment from simple pleasures such as daily writing, frequent bike rides, long walks, listening to podcasts, and watching the Brewers and the Bucks with his beloved Julie.


April 26th 2022 was Jon’s last day outdoors; he was riding his bike.


A funeral service will be held on Saturday June 25th at Immanuel Presbyterian Church 1100 N. Astor Street, Milwaukee WI at 11:00AM . The family will greet visitors following the service.  Mask are required.  Click Here to view a recording of the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Jon’s memory may be made to the Muscular Dystrophy Association or to Immanuel Presbyterian Church where Jon had been a member since 1988 and was ordained as a Deacon and Elder.


  1. Sarah Backus May 23, 2022 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    My heart is gasping…so many will love you always and say your name forever…I have every Christmas newsy letter and family photo. Thank you for sharing your compassionate, genius life with us…deepest love to Julia, Ahna and Ezra❤️💔

  2. Edie Urness-Pondillo May 24, 2022 at 5:04 am - Reply

    I read this at breakfast and had to stop, because I was in a public place. I needed to go home and ugly cry. I worked with him at News Pub and will always have memories of late night conversations with Jon—always full of laughter and deep friendship. The world is less without Jon.

  3. Kathy Yakal May 24, 2022 at 5:17 am - Reply

    There’s a shortage of bright, thoughtful, kind, people in this world. Jon was one of them. He was an original. Always so honest and full of life, and as funny as anyone I’ve ever known. I am so sorry his life with Julie was cut short, and I’m heartbroken for her and Ezra and Ahna. RIP, dear, sweet man.

  4. Nancy Sturm May 24, 2022 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    My deepest condolences Julia to you and your children. I wish I had known him. You were blessed with a wonderful partner in life. I am so sorry if was cut short but know you and you family will always treasure the memories and keep him in you heart!

  5. Dulcie Shoener May 24, 2022 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    I am very sorry to learn of Jon’s death. I worked with him at the Journal Sentinel for a number of years, and I’m so sorry that I lost track of his many accomplishments. Deep sympathy to you, Julia, and to your family.

  6. Terry Backmann May 24, 2022 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed working with Jon at the Journal and the countless times he cracked me up with his witicisms. His life ended too soon but it was a full one. RIP Mr. O.

  7. Michael Muhs May 25, 2022 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Dear Julie, you don’t know me but I was made aware of your amazing husband through a friend,Jim Hoffman.. I am a biker also so Jim informed me of Jon’s cool quest and I followed a bit on his blogs. I felt he was a kindred spirit and so wished I could have got to know him personally. My most sincere condolences go out to you and your family and feel personally that Jon might be keeping an eye on us fellow bikers out there in this crazy world we live in. God speed Julie !

    • Lee Bergquist May 26, 2022 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      I’m very sorry to hear this. My best to you and your family. A real loss.

  8. Lee Bergquist May 26, 2022 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I’m very sorry to hear this. My best to you and your family. A real loss.

  9. Marcus Lee - second cousin May 29, 2022 at 6:47 am - Reply

    I am very sad about the loss of Jon – too soon. My sympathy especially to Julie, Ahna and Ezra – and also to sisters Lydie, Siri and Kari and their families.
    Jon was a person that touched the lives of others in a special and unforgettable way. His wit, so enjoyably displayed in his Christmas letters, his curiosity and thoughtfulness, his gregarious and approachable nature and his dedication to the biking sport he loved and used to make a huge impact to MD research, These are things I will remember about Jon. He will be missed.

  10. Kathleen Meyer May 29, 2022 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Jon and I worked together on the Milwaukee Journal business desk, and later on the business and copy desks of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I always enjoyed Jon’s wry sense of humor. Jon was one of the few people who realized that learning shorthand was a valuable skill. Jon was part of the small Norwegian mafia at the Journal Sentinel, even though he spelled his name like a Swede. His claim was that his ancestors were indifferent spellers.

  11. Jayne Dewire June 24, 2022 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Our family sends our expression of compassionate support to Julia, Ahna, and Ezra as you mourn the passing of Jon. We have happy memories of visiting with Jon at dance lessons and recitals when Ahna was very young and at Tosa East swim meets when she was older. We also knew Ezra when he was at East and he and our daughter Laura had many mutual friends. Thank you for the beautiful obituary where we learned so much more about Jon and the remarkable and meaningful life he lived. We know that life will be different for you going forward. We pray that your happy memories comfort you as you continue to hold Jon in your hearts. God’s peace and blessings to you and yours..

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