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John "Jack" Olson

Jack grew up as a farmboy in North Dakota. As he told his story Standing ankle deep in dust with Russian thistles blowing by, I decided I damn well didnt want to be a farmer! I hated milking cows so I made a deal with my dad that if I never had to milk a cow again I would be happy to work in the blacksmith shop and repair farm machinery. I decided most of all what I wanted to be was a flyer. That's my first love so I decided I'd join the Navy and get into their flying program. But then I saw what the uniforms looked like. I figured with my stocky build I wouldn't look very neat in a Navy uniform. So I decided I'd better try the Army Air Corps. Actually I joined the Air Corps because I thought I'd be able to run out my whole school year at the University of North Dakota, but it turns out the Army Air Corps didn't keep their promises.

He was accepted and started their cadet training and ended up being an instructor in B-24s. After the war, Jack decided that he'd someday flunk his physicals and be an out of work pilot with no other skills. So he turned down a job with Western Airlines and went back to school at the University of Minnesota to study design engineering.

After graduation he went to work for Boeing preliminary Design Concepts Group and eventually Boeing Aerospace. He worked on projects from hydrofoil boats to power satellites to aircraft and spacecraft.

He was well known as a practical joker. In the mid-sixties, George
Stoner, who was at the time head of Boeing Aerospace, asked Jack to paint some lunar landscapes. This was before the lunar landing and Mr. Stoner wanted to show Congressional committees and professional groups what the surface of the Moon was like. He was up in front of the audience showing the pictures when somebody starts to snicker and giggle. Jack had slipped a bleached out cow's skull in the picture! It became a trademark of Jack's. Years later, he was still at it, as could be seen on a conceptual that was one of his last works...the top of a convenience store could be seen over the edge of a crater in one of his moonscape paintings of a lunar rover.

In 1963 he learned to fly gliders with the Boeing Club. Jack always felt
eating, sleeping and flying is fundamental to life. Jack remembers a wave flight in 1972 at Choteau, Montana. The beauty and awesome size of the lenticular cloud stretching from horizon to horizon was unforgettable. His advice for other pilots Don't plan to come and fly on the same weekend that Olson does unless you like crummy weather. He was one that would frustrate some of his buddies on cross country trips. He would acknowledge the fact that they always had to wait for him, and would take the good natured ribbing... He never met a thermal he didn't like.

Throughout the years he contributed colorful stories, paintings and
cartoons...locally and nationally. He encouraged soaring wherever he went. He also was a skilled photographer and held a master-photographer certification from the Photographic Society of America.

Besides his wife of 40 years, Mr. Olson is survived by four sons, John
Olson and Robert Olson, both of Seattle, Thomas Weinerth of British Columbia and Robert "Kip" Malaska of Tacoma; and a daughter, Julia Weinerth Sischo of Seattle.

A fifth son, Michael Weinerth, died in 1997. Mr. Olson also is survived by five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

—Vince Miller

Posted: 12/1/2001


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