Duane Norman Olson
Olson, Duane Norman Age 89, passed away, Saturday, June 13, 2020, while out enjoying his daily walk. He lived at the Northfield Retirement Community, in Northfield, Minnesota. Born in 1931, in Crosby, MN, Duane was the eldest child of Adolf and Marjorie (Velzy) Olson. He attended schools in Houghton, MI, Green Bay, WI, Duluth and Ada, MN (HS 1949), St. Olaf College (BA 1953), and Cornell University, where he earned a Ph.D. in High-Energy Physics in 1960. While at Cornell, Duane met and married Joan Rafaj, and began a partnership that lasted from 1956 until Joan's passing in 2015. Children, Ruth and Eric, were born in Ithaca, NY, before Duane accepted a position at the University of Liverpool (UK). After returning to St. Olaf in 1962 to teach, another daughter, Susanne, completed the family. Duane spent individual years at Argonne National Laboratory, Oxford University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Duane and Joan took a final joint-sabbatical in Durham (UK, 1990-91), with Duane at Newcastle University, and Joan, an archivist, at Durham University. Together, they also served as Field Supervisors for St. Olaf's Global Semester (1983). Duane enjoyed his research, teaching, and leading the family on epic car-camping trips each summer or sabbatical. Duane's love for all things scenic, historic, or cultural, left no lunch-time mountain stream undiscovered, or gothic cathedral unexploredand many life-long friendships were formed along the way. Duane retired from St. Olaf in 1996, remaining active in the Northfield community through St. John's Lutheran Church, delivering Meals on Wheels, and tax assistance at the Senior Center. He and Joan traveled frequently to visit their ever-increasing circle of extended family and friends. Always inquisitive, Duane never relinquished his enjoyment of books, learning, and keeping up with current events. Duane is survived by three children, Ruth Olson of New York City; Eric Olson (Diana Denning), Newburyport, MA; Susanne Olson (James O'Conor), Arlington, MA; and eight grandchildren. He is also survived by his two brothers, Gene M. Olson of Lancaster, PA, and Gerald C. Olson (Susan) of San Tan Valley, AZ, and sister-in-law Mildred Rafaj of Madison, CT. He was predeceased by his wife Joan, his parents, sisters-in-law Nalda Olson, Ruth Goodwin, Susan Rafaj, Ellen Vrudny, Grace Rafaj, and brother-in-law Paul Rafaj. Memorials are preferred to the Northfield Historical Society, the College History Fund at St. Olaf College, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or St. John's Lutheran Church. northfieldfuneral.com
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