Ross Olson's Web Site


Tribute To Myrtle Olson

Solomon must have known my mother. He really got it right in Proverbs 31*, except for the part about servant girls – although Mom does have one hardworking daughter, and did eventually train her sons… and husband… in the domestic arts. Many things are remarkable about her and may not be apparent even to those who have known her for a long time.

First of all is her energy with determination: She was able to work hard and long. After my medical training, I now understand that this is because of her mitochondria, which she passed on to each of her children. But it was not just the native strength, but her will that used it to do good, and to push herself when a job needed finishing. While raising four children and sometimes working part time outside the home, she ran the Pioneer Girls’ Camp Cherith as chairman of the camp committee in the off season, always making sure that it would be fully staffed and supplied and that all the necessary forms and applications were done, not to mention spending several weeks each summer on site. She also gave leadership to Bible Study Fellowship and Women’s Neighborhood Bible Study for many years. She was a Deaconess and did visitation, continuing that until very recently. It was apparent as her body became increasingly frail how she pushed herself to serve others. And she never complained. Dad said that in 63 years of marriage, she never complained, and though I can’t be specific, I suspect that there may have been a few things to complain about. Although she had been obviously getting more and more frail over the last couple of years, when we saw her lifeless body in the hospital – without the powerful determination animating her-- it was hard to believe that she had been able to do anything at all.

Secondly is service with humility: That was how she showed love and how she used her gifts. It was often behind the scenes and she was never concerned about who got the credit. Only in these last few days of her life did she confide in one of her grandsons, Scott, that she wished she would not have to cook any more. (And she did get her wish!) But that was quite an admission for someone who cooked for large or small crowds whenever the situation arose and often spontaneously made the very labor-intensive Kroppkakor (Swedish Potato Dumplings) just because she knew how much they were enjoyed. When in the hospital her last few days of life, she was giving Dad advice on the phone for questions he had regarding cooking. And she could fix almost anything around the house with a pliers, hammer and screwdriver which she kept in the kitchen drawer.

Thirdly is creativity and teaching: She created with her cooking but also painted, doing Scandinavian Rosemaling to decorate plates and cupboards. She made pottery and for years had a kiln in the basement at 4728 17th where she would fire pottery the grandchildren had shaped under her teaching. She was able to pass on the skills, encourage the development of gifts and enhance the confidence of her children and grandchildren to stretch their abilities with many activities such as making jewelry and fashioning decorations or cooking traditional Scandinavian dishes. The kiln and the imagination were eventually passed on to the next generation. Mom also appreciated and conveyed to us a sense of wonder at the creativity of our Maker and the beautiful world He designed for us to enjoy, whether in bird watching or noticing wild flowers or wondering at fantastic rock formations. Her gardens were beautiful and she shared cuttings with family and friends.

Fourthly is gentle humor: Mom’s sense of humor was quiet and subtle. She loved words and their effect and was able to see the humor in every day situations, never diminishing anyone and often defusing situations that might have otherwise been tense. She loved little poems and recited to me: “Every day upon the stair, I see a man who isn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. Oh how I wish he’d go away.” I remember once when one of Bryan’s many pets, a Gecko lizard, had escaped. A guest sitting in the living room reached up to turn on the lamp and suddenly cried out, “Oh, a lizard!” Mom replied, “Good, we’ve been looking for that one.” She tolerated the pet cemetery in the back yard including one turtle, killed by a terrarium-mate, whose marker read “Here Lies Thistlethwaite, Who Was Murdered.” Even in these last days, the humor was there. When Dad was in the hospital with his cancer surgery, we children took turns staying with Mom. I had just helped her to bed and made sure her walker was nearby and the lights out and was walking back down the hall when I heard her say, “I want a story.” When in the hospital with multiple serious problems, heart failure, blood clots in the legs, intestinal bleeding, low thyroid and irregular heart rate, she told us, “ I think my doctor is taking me on as a challenge.”

But most important of all and the key to everything else is her love for the Lord Jesus Christ and spiritual depth: I often recall that if I got up early I would see mom, sitting on the edge of her bed, reading the Scriptures and praying, before she went downstairs to fix us all a three-course breakfast. She brought us up in the way that we should go, but then also knew when to let go and pray that we would not depart from it. She conveyed a calm confidence in the face of difficulty or uncertainty. I recall when in college I expressed an interest in some questionable philosophy, she said, “I’m not worried about you.” She also tolerated eccentric behavior, such as when Tim and I experimented with various substances – not inhaling or ingesting, but squirting them across the basement with syringes to produce what we called “accidental art.” I don’t know which child she liked best – I suspect that we were each her favorite – but Bryan as the youngest did get some unique benefits. Mom led him to the Lord at home when he was 5 years old. He also got to go with her to Camp Cherith for several years as a preschooler and early grade-schooler. When asked what he did over the summer, he could say, “I went to Pioneer Girls’ Camp.” She and Dad visited us twice while we were missionaries in Hong Kong and were a great encouragement when we faced difficulties, which included the death of our infant son Matthew. Now as we host visiting Chinese students and scholars, they are always very excited to meet the patriarch and matriarch of the clan and very appreciative of the hospitality as they are invited to family celebrations. She had a genuine concern for her neighbors and her children-in-law could never see the humor in “mother-in-law jokes.”

Mom was a prayer warrior and source of wisdom, especially as her children and grandchildren faced all sorts of difficulties. In fact, I think that is why the Lord did not release her to come home sooner – He knew that we needed her prayers. As a representative of her children, I rise up and call her blessed.

*Proverbs 31:10-31

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her
servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is
respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Send comments to me at ross{at}

The URL for this document is

Test Visitors