Neighbors mailbox: Friend gives tribute to Sigurd T. Olson

Posted: Friday, December 26, 2008

Sigurd T. Olson, longtime resident of Douglas and renowned Alaskan wildlife biologist, passed away at the Juneau Pioneers Home, Dec. 21, at the age of 85.

Sig was born in Ely, Minnesota Sept. 15, 1923 - the eldest son of internationally famous conservationist Sigurd F. Olson and wife Elizabeth Dorothy Olson. Sig's father (1899-1982) was one of the first advocates of establishing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota - and the author of many books and articles on conservation practices, wilderness and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Sig followed in his father's footsteps and during his graduate studies as a wildife biologist authored a thesis on his studies of the loon - which remains an important research publications of that species.

Sig was a combat verteran of World War II - serving in the U.S. Army Mountain Ski Division, and was serving in Italy at the time of the liberation of Italy from the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini - who was captured and hanged by Italian civilians near where Sig was in service.

Sig's wife, Esther, was also born in Ely, Minn. Sig and Esther were married in Austin, Texas, in 1944. After World War II and graduation from college, Sig and Esther moved to Alaska, settling in Douglas in 1959 and later working in Anchorage for six years - returning to Douglas in 1978. Sig and Esther had two sons, Greg and Robert, and several grand children.

After Sig came to Alaska, he first worked as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and later with the U.S. Forest Service. Sig not only served as director of Wildlife and Sport Fisheries programs with the orest Service, but also served on the statewide team evaluating all of Alaska's lands for Alaska National Interest land designations by the U.S. Congress and President.

After retirement from the U.S. Forest Service, Sig remained active with various wildlife-fisheries professional organizations - but he and Esther were then able to devote more time to hiking, skiing, canoeing, gardening and in various programs in the Douglas Methodist Church. After Sig's wife, Esther, passed away, Sig remained an active leader in the development and operation of the Eaglecrest Ski area until he moved from his Douglas home to Indian Cove and the Pioneer Home earlier this year.

His many friends throughout the community always enjoyed his exhuberant love of Alaska; his visits to Eaglecrest and the daily walks along Sandy Beach and theTreadwell trails. Everyone appreciated Sig's sense of humor and fond memories of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and vast array of experiences throughout Alaska.

Sig was a skilled writer and poet - and enjoyed recalling rhymes he learned as a youth. "Be the labor, great or small - do it well or not at all!" - was an admonition he often shared with colleagues within various organizations in which he served.

Sig's outstanding lifetime of service to his country during World War II; his eminent career as a wildlife biologist; and Sig's personal life as an Alaskan husband, father, sportsman, skier, Douglas citizen and Methodist Church member - will forever be remembered by his family, co-workers and friends.

John A. Sandor

Juneau



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