In Memory

Bruce Olson


Bruce William Olson, 77, of Naples, Florida, formerly of Rockford, IL., died on Friday June 23, 2023. He was born on September 8, 1945 in Rockford, the son of Fred C. and Lillian (Stollar) Olson. Bruce graduated from Rockford East High School in 1963, where he swam on the varsity team. He received his B.A. and B.S. from the University of Minnesota and was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. It was there that he met his wife of 56 years, Paula Gabrielson. They married on December 17, 1966 in Minneapolis, MN. He proudly served in the United States Army’s Illinois National Guard as a Staff Sergeant. In 1968 Bruce became the 4th generation of the Olson family to serve the Rockford area as a Funeral Director with Olson Funeral and Cremation Services, and he was an amazing mentor to many in the industry. After 50+ years, he retired in 2019 having touched so many lives at incredibly difficult times. Nothing made him happier than helping the families with whom he worked.

Bruce’s number one joy was spending time with his family, and he will be missed so much by them. He lived for family gatherings and holidays. Family beach, fishing, and ski trips were frequent, and he enthusiastically attended countless games and matches of his children and grandchildren over the years. He beamed with pride about his children and grandchildren to anyone who would listen. His most recent favorite pastimes were watching the various birds and wildlife of Florida as well as the sunsets over the Gulf, sending nightly photos to his family talking about seeing the “Green Flash.” His children all think that this phenomenon was more the result of an occasional glass of wine during the sunset rather than an atmospheric anomaly. As a social butterfly, he cherished time with his friends. Bruce could make friends with just about anyone, and he did so frequently. He and Paula still have deep connections with friends from their childhood years, through their many years together in Minnesota and Rockford, and most recently their new friendships created in Naples. At the core of Bruce, he simply loved to share jokes and connect with others. Bruce’s fondness of nature led him to teach classes on growing orchids, restoring native prairies, and watching birds. He was a walking encyclopedia of the natural world. To no one’s surprise, he quickly became the orchid expert in Naples, where you could find him on the paths placing them in trees.

He believed in being an active member of his community and was a founding member and first Chairman of the Upper Rock River Ecosystem Partnership of the Illinois DNR, a founding Board Member of Guarantee National Bank of Rockford, Board Member and Chairman of Keith Country Day School, and Board Member and Chairman of The Scandinavian Cemetery Association.

Bruce is survived by his wife, Paula; children, Kristen (Patrick) Ramsey of Morristown, NJ, Brett (Betsy) Olson of London, UK, Scott (Rebecca) Olson of Rockford, and Gregg (Sarah) Olson of St Paul, MN; grandchildren, Nicholas, Caroline, and Julia Ramsey, Brooks, Clay, Boden, Aldyn, Palmer, and William Olson; and several nieces and nephews. Predeceased by his parents; brother, Fred C. Olson III; and sister, Joan Olson.

Funeral Services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, June 30, 2023 at Zion Lutheran Church, 925 5th Ave. Rockford, IL 61104 with Reverend Dr. Denver Bitner officiating. Visitation will be held from 3:00-6:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 29, 2023 at Fred C. Olson Chapel, 1001 Second Ave, Rockford, IL 61104. Burial in Scandinavian Cemetery. Memorials can be made to The Natural Land Institute, Nygren Wetlands, 320 S. 3rd St. Rockford, IL. 61104 or click here To share a memory or condolence, please visit

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06/27/23 07:27 AM #1    

Linda Swinehart (Wales)

Wonderful, wonderful man!!  He will be greatly missed. Many condolences to his family and friends.

06/27/23 09:33 AM #2    

Donna Davis (McIntosh)


06/27/23 10:10 AM #3    

Susan Verson (Levich)

We have lost a beautiful soul! Bruce and I were in class together at Bloom School.. He was one of the kindest people I have ever known! He always had time to listen and treated all with respect all through jr high and high school and beyond. Our last conversation was at the last reunion when we just laughed about all the crazy memories we shared.  Rest in peace my friend.  Sue Verson Levich 

06/27/23 10:32 AM #4    

David Sheets

Bruce was an inspiration to anyone who knew him.  He provided great insight/ideas for our reunions.  I'm honored that I got know him more over the past 10 years or so.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family.  God Bless you Bruce!!!!

06/28/23 11:42 AM #5    

Britta Severin (Peterson)

Remember knowing Bruce since perhaps second grade at Bloom.  Remember the "Sixth Grade Graduation Party" at his parent's home.  We were in the same homeroom at East.  He was always kind.  A Gentleman.  He took care of many of our family's funerals (my parents and Tom's parents plus others).  He was ALWAYS so focused on what you needed.  Very caring.  We will miss him.  


06/28/23 08:38 PM #6    

Eugene Robinson

I was reading the comments on the East High E-Rab '63 website this afternoon about Bruce Olson, and enjoyed them all, but one stuck out in my mind at the time, as the insight that was shared in the short statement by Linda Swinehart was truly inspiring. Shortly after reading the various comments, I received a call from Rick Ball, and we discussed Bruce for quite a while, to the point that Rick asked me if I was going to write anything about Bruce. I made no assurances to Rick, but after hearing him, then remembering the comment that I read from Linda, whom I have always held in high esteem, with the kind of respect that you give to a True Lady... I DECIDED TO PEN THIS NOTE IN REMEMBRANCE OF BRUCE OLSON.

As a graduate of Rockford East, I have seen and read the obituaries of many of our classmates over the years, then in thinking back, several of the fondest memories came to me as the graduates of 1963 passed away, and Bruce seemed to be there through his family business, to make the Journey to The Other Side for our classmates, and/or their families, as pleasant, painless, and as memorable as possible. After reading what Linda Swinehart and others had to say, then receiving a call from Rick Ball to talk about Bruce, I felt as if The LORD was telling me, "You have heard from others, now it is your turn!" 

So, as my way of saying Good Bye to a classmate who played such an important part in our lives during our youth, and well beyond... I SAY GOD BLESS YOU BRUCE, AND ALSO TO SAY THAT YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. Rest In Eternal Peace-- Gene Robinson 





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