OBITUARY: Ronald K. Olson, 79

Ronald K. Olson of Marblehead, formerly of Salem and Revere, died peacefully and surrounded by family Oct. 20 due to complications from heart surgery. He was 79.

He is survived by his “partner in crime” of 57 years, wife Joanne (Angrisano); his two sons and their wives, Kris and Wendy of Beverly, and Scott and Bridget of Goshen, New York; his treasured grandsons, Max and Parker; his mother-in-law; two sisters-in-law, one brother-in-law and their spouses, and many nieces and nephews.

Ronald K. Olson

Born in Everett to Harry and Mildred Olson, he was raised in Revere, where he met Joanne, his high school sweetheart. They got engaged before he left Tufts University to enlist in the U.S. Air Force in 1964.

While stationed in Germany, Ron kept getting bumped from flights back to the U.S. for airmen with families and nearly missed his wedding ceremony. But he made it, and the newly married couple was serenaded on the church steps by members of the 27th Lancers, a drum-and-bugle corps with which Ron had marched.

Ron then brought Joanne to Germany, where they lived together for two years before coming back stateside, the first of many adventures, large and small. Life with Ron was “never boring,” Joanne says, which she means in a good way (we think).

Drawing upon his Air Force training, Ron embarked on a career as a software engineer, along the way earning his bachelor’s degree by taking night classes at Boston University to fulfill a promise to his mother.

In addition to working with early industry leaders like Digital Equipment Corporation and Prime Computer, Ron relished the opportunity to share his expertise with students in Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies for 35 years.

A devoted father and grandfather, Ron was the Ted Lasso of Salem Youth Soccer’s early days. Equipped initially with little more than a whistle and what he could glean about rules and strategy from library books, he took to the sidelines to coach his sons’ teams. Those teams — the Force, the Teamen, Snoopy’s Gang — may not have topped the standings but always led the league in fun.

He remained his sons’ biggest cheerleader throughout his life, becoming president of the Fathers’ Club at St. John’s Prep, which both sons — and later grandson Max — attended.

He showed the same devotion with his grandsons, attending countless theater performances and baseball games.

Ron initiated some of the family’s adventures, like the day he pulled up to a Little League game and released from the back of the family minivan a bounding 85-pound Old English sheepdog, “Duffy,” an unexpected addition to the family.

“I had to — he leaned on me,” he explained.

That soft spot for animals continued throughout the rest of his life, as he became a devoted volunteer of the Marblehead Animal Shelter. Most Friday nights, you could find him cleaning cages and giving their occupants some TLC until they found homes. He also volunteered with the Friends of the Marblehead Council on Aging.

Other times, Joanne was the instigator, like when she read in a local newspaper of the Salem Trolley’s need for drivers and tour guides. Joanne decided this would be a great gig for the empty-nesters — he would drive, she would give tours. They could do it on the weekends initially and expand their schedule once they retired.

Over the next 30 years, Ron held up his end of the bargain, delighting in sharing his love of Salem’s history — along with an occasional culinary tip, like “try the Lobster Shanty’s tater tots” — with visitors from across the U.S. and beyond.

Music — of all kinds — was one of Ron’s great loves, from drum-and-bugle corps and big bands like the one his father-in-law had played in to recently becoming an unlikely “groupie” and evangelist for the Chicago rock band The Empty Pockets.

Ron was also a “car guy.” He was fiercely loyal to Datsun and Nissan — from his 240-Z with the Beach Boys ever-present in the eight-track player to his modern-day Juke NISMO. But he occasionally made an exception to honor his heritage by driving Volvos.

In recent years, he also took great joy in a spirited fantasy football rivalry with his sons and their friends, getting the last laugh in 2019 when his team, the Marblehead Mafia, won the league championship.

Funeral services will be private. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, in Ron’s honor, please enjoy a scoop of pistachio ice cream, raise a glass of hazelnut iced coffee, adopt an adult shelter pet, make a bad pun, and/or consider a gift in his memory to either the Marblehead Animal Shelter, 44 Village St., Marblehead, MA 01945; or to St. John’s Prep, Attn: Advancement Office, 72 Spring St., Danvers, MA 01923.

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