Olson, Robert "Dr. Bob" of Minneapolis, passed away on September 15, 2022.
The youngest of three sons, Bob's life course was set from birth. His father was a world-renowned ecological scientist; his mother, while denied a college education by her father, excelled at any task she undertook - her motto was "you can be anything you want to be." Bob was chosen by his mother to be a doctor.
Crippled by polio at age nine, he spent six months in Sheltering Arms (a rehabilitation hospital for children) learning to walk again; after leaving Sheltering Arms his mom was both cheerleader and martinet for his ongoing exercise program; he became a football star and champion wrestler (named to the Washburn H.S. Athletic Hall of Fame). Bob also was the school chess champion, got a perfect score on the ACT test, and won an academic scholarship to Dartmouth College where he and roommates Jim Hale and Paul Johnson won the award for best aggregate GPA from a high school sending students to Dartmouth. He earned B.A., B.S., and M.D. degrees. He interned at Alameda County Hospital in San Francisco, where he met and later married Karen Kessler, a debutante-turned-pioneering-female-banking executive.
Drafted into the Navy, he served with Riverine Assault Forces in Vietnam's Mekong Deltarendering front-line triage and trauma care to SEALS and Marines. Also serving as VD "medical czar" for the Rung Sat province, he virtually eliminated STDs, for which he was given a special citation by the Vietnamese Government and was featured on ABC's national nightly news.
Returning to Minnesota, he completed training in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology and joined the University Faculty - serving 25 years as Chief of GI at St Paul Ramsey/University of Minnesota Hospital where he trained interns, residents, and fellows. A gifted speaker and raconteur, his (dry) humorous-but-pragmatic approach to complex problems was well received. In 1996, Bob was elected Chief of Staff at Regions Hospital and named a "Top Doc" by Mpls St Paul magazine. In 1998, he was given the Visscher Award for best specialty consultant in the Twin Cities by HealthPartners. In 2004, he was named "A Distinguished Alumnus" by the University of Minnesota.
He loved his work and in 34 years never took a sick day. After his retirement, Regions Hospital Chief of Staff Paula Skarda sent a letter to the staff and alumni saying, "While several mentors taught us to make medicine our life, Dr. Bob Olson also taught us how to 'have fun' practicing medicine!"
Despite a heavy schedule, seldom getting home before 7 p.m., and being on night call for emergencies evenings and weekends, he found time to read to his daughters' grade school classes, attend their teachers' conferences, tutor them in math, and be at almost every sporting event. He had one-on-one vacations with each girl - Maggie backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, and Krista to posh hotels and restaurants in Chicago and New York.
He was an avid gardener who specialized in hostas. In 1995, he led an expedition into the wilderness of Japan to obtain wild-growing species. He served as President of the Men's and Women's Garden Club of Minneapolis and of the American Hosta Society. The Olson garden won national awards; it was featured at conventions of the American Hosta Society and the North American Lily Society.
He was admittedly a "high-maintenance" person who was blessed to have a wife who could manage him and the household with aplomb. After Karen's untimely death, his daughters, Maggie and Krista, made it a priority to take care of him as she would have - and they did.
He is survived by daughters Margrit (Nicholas) and Kristine (Anthony); grandchildren Robert, Madeline, and Lovisa.
A celebration of life will be held at 11am on October 17th at Lakewood Cemetery followed by a reception at The Calhoun Beach Club.