Cheri Cruthoff laughed when Fern Olson answered the door one day.
Cruthoff had knocked on the front door of her neighbor’s house and it took Olson a while to get there.
Olson apologized for the delay.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t get to the door sooner,” Olson said. “I was in the back with my two best friends — Washing Machine and Dryer.”
“It was just one of her clever sayings,” the Cruthoff said. “She always had something witty and cute to say. We used to call them Fernie-isms. She had a million Fernie-isms and they were hers — nobody else’s.”
This week, Cruthoff and other Fremonters are remembering a local woman, who with her husband, Dale, supported numerous causes in the community and whom, friends say, had a consistently positive outlook.
Fern Olson died Thursday.
She was 93.
“Fremont lost a community treasure,” said Melissa Diers, executive director of the Fremont Area Community Foundation. “Fern Olson was down-to-earth, always ready with a witty remark, and a joy to know. She brightened every room she entered. And she was an inspiration to many through her service to community and her commitment to faith.”
Diers said the Olsons led the way for the success and impact of countless charitable efforts and organizations throughout the area — and did so with optimism, grace and a grateful spirit.
The Olsons’ impact has been seen through numerous volunteer hours through board membership, which has included FACF, Fremont Area Art Association, Fremont Family YMCA, Fremont Rotary Club, Midland University and what is now called Methodist Fremont Health — to name a few.
They were chairs of Midland’s “A Vision Inspired” capital campaign and honorary chairs for the Fremont Opera House renovation campaign.
In 2012, the Olsons were awarded the FACF’s “Betsy Mulliken Award for Philanthropy.”
Shawn Shanahan, executive director of the Fremont Area United Way, said the Olsons have long supported that agency.
They funded renovation of the Olson Community Engagement Center at 445 E. First St., which when completed will house: FAUW, Rebuilding Together, Fremont Family Coalition, Sixpence, Volunteer Connection and the Metropolitan Community College Employability Academy Center.
The Olsons were instrumental in the capital campaign for the Jefferson House, an emergency shelter for children, and The Hope Center for Kids’ expansion to Fremont.
Throughout the years, the Olsons have provided support in a very professional, quiet manner and because of that Shanahan believes they’ve supported multiple good causes.
“Fern just always brought pure joy and happiness, excitement and compassion to supporting initiatives and work and change in our community that would help children and families,” Shanahan said.
Midland University has benefited from the Olsons’ generosity as well. The Olson Student Center is one of their namesakes.
In 2015, University officials formally dedicated the apartment-style housing at Lincoln Avenue and Ninth Street as Olson Village in honor of the Olsons.
“We are so grateful for the lasting contributions the Olsons have made to the students of Midland University,” said Midland President Jody Horner in a Tribune article. “Their generosity has already strengthened our community, and it will continue to serve Midland students well into the future.”
People who knew Olson appreciated her optimistic and caring attitude.
“She was so sweet,” said longtime friend Jean Anderson of Fremont. “She was just a lovely lady, so kind, so sweet, always a smile. I just loved her.”
Shanahan recalled Olson’s love for her husband and family.
“I love how much she loved her family and Dale,” Shanahan said. “Her pure joy and happiness for Dale and their amazing marriage and commitment to each other — you always knew if you were talking about Dale, you were talking about Dale and Fern.”
Cruthoff remembered her neighbor as bright, funny and delightful.
“You never had a down moment with her,” Cruthoff said. “She would always brighten your day. If you needed a lift, you called Fern. She was a real fun person to be around.”
Olson is survived by her husband, Dale, and family and friends. Dugan Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.