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 Bit.ly/Ride4MDA or to Immanuel Presbyterian Church https://www.immanuelwi.org/contribute where Jon had been a member since 1988 and was ordained as a Deacon and Elder.