Integrity is defined as not only possessing, but also steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards. The life of William Olson was a clear reflection of integrity as his sound character and impeccable standards were his constant companions. Those who knew Bill knew there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish and that his “can do” attitude was the key to his success. Although he was a successful man, none of his accomplishments were greater to him than the family members who were his greatest source of pride and joy. A man who was blessed to share more than 64 years with the love of his life, Bill leaves behind a legacy of faith, love, and generosity that his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be proud to carry on.
The year 1926 was part of a vibrant decade in American history full of countless noteworthy events that would forever change the cultural fabric of our nation. Winnie the Pooh first delighted young children, the historic Route 66 was created, and the National Broadcasting Network (NBC) was launched. Amidst this year of great prosperity and endless opportunity, there was great reason to celebrate in the family of Gust and Caren Olson as they welcomed their son, William, into their family on March 3rd.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, William was one of two children in his family including his younger sister, Inga. William’s parents were both Swedish immigrants who came to America during their teen years, found each other and married. Continuing to embrace their Swedish heritage, Gust and Caren raised their two children in a north Chicago neighborhood that was very rich in Swedish culture. William established a close relationship with his sister that would remain a vital part of his life through the years. The Olson family was very strict, but loving, and Bill learned to see family as a priceless treasure during his formative years. They enjoyed summers at their cottage on Bass Lake in Pentwater, Michigan.
For his education, Bill attended local schools including Senn High School where he played basketball and baseball. His years as a high school student would prove to be monumental in guiding the direction his life would one day turn since it was as a student at Senn High that he met the young girl with whom he would share a lifetime of love. Her name was Verna Jane Baldwin and the couple became high school sweethearts.
After our nation was viciously attacked at our naval base in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, we had no choice but to enter WWII the very next day. As countless young men and women were sent overseas, Bill was drafted and after graduating from high school, was sent overseas as well. He served in the Navy and two years after he was drafted, the war ended and he was discharged.
Once again a civilian, Bill returned home and married Verna Jane not long after. The couple was blessed with four children: Kim, Chris, Julie, and Bob. Bill was a dedicated family man who worked hard to support his family throughout his life. Initially, he joined his father and father-in-law in purchasing a garage and truck dealership in Evanston, Illinois. Bill then entered the seal manufacturing business, which took his family to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and then to Elm Grove. In later years, Bill was involved in the development of two successful seal manufacturing businesses, one of which he sold to his two sons.
There were so many things that made Bill such an extraordinary man and for which he will be remembered. He was an extremely driven and positive person – someone who always saw the glass as half full. Bill approached everything with confidence and assurance, and it was this attitude that was the key to his success. Nick named “The Pump” by his friends he was always ready to pump you up. He preached that it is easy to start something, but it is how you finish that counts. Bill flawlessly balanced his competitive spirit with a compassionate heart. He was an advocate for the “little guy” and anyone with a connection to Sweden.
When he had some leisure time, Bill enjoyed a variety of activities. He and Verna were members at Mount Carmel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee for 50 years and also of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Naples, Florida. Bill was also active in various tennis and golf clubs, and served as a board member at Western Racquet Club. Traveling was another one of Bill’s passions and it was almost always something he loved sharing with those he cherished. He and Verna visited every continent, and several of his trips included his extended family – times that brought him great joy. Their final trip was a seven week cruise on the Queen Mary 2.
It wasn’t surprising that Bill was absolutely thrilled to become a grandfather. From the moment his first grandchild was born, spending time with this younger generation became a favorite activity. Visits to Bill and Verna’s winter home in Naples, Florida were a must for children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Both Bill and his grandchildren treasured the many fishing expeditions they went on together through the years. He was so grateful to live to see all of his children marry and bless him with ten grandchildren who then doubly blessed him with four great-grandchildren.
William Olson was a man who was highly successful according to the world’s standards, but he was a man who treasured relationships with those around him whether with his family, his friends, or so many others within his reach. Someone who was an advocate for hard work, Bill believed in having dreams and working hard to turn those dreams into a reality. He was a man of faith whose beliefs guided the steps he took each day. A beloved family man, savvy business owner, and loyal friend, Bill will be deeply missed and warmly remembered.
William Olson died surrounded by his family on November 16, 2010. Bill’s family includes his wife, Verna J. Olson; children, Kim (Jim) Engel, Chris (Nancy) Olson, Julie (Brian) Baird, and Robert (Mary) Olson; grandchildren, Kate (Mike) Twohig, Anne (Roberto) Guercini; Eric, Kara and Drew Olson; Ryan and Kayla Foley; Billy, Chloe and Cooper Olson; great-grandchildren Finnegan and Maggie Twohig; Elliott and Mila Guercini. Family and friends will gather Saturday, November 20th at Mount Carmel Lutheran Church, 8424 W. Center St. from 10:00 a.m. until the time of the Memorial Service at 11:00 a.m. A reception to immediately follow the service. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a favorite memory or view a picture gallery. Arrangements provided by Becker Ritter Funeral Home, 14075 W. North Ave. Brookfield, WI, 262-782-5330.