Clair Bernard Olson passed away on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in Alpharetta, Georgia at the age of 95.
Clair was born November 1, 1920 in New Sweden, Minnesota. He was the third of six sons born to Mr. and Mrs. Ole Olson. Clair attended District No. 6 and 46 of the Nicollet Rural Schools and was then graduated from St. Peter High School, St. Peter, Minnesota in 1938. In 1939 he married Esther Pearl Heglund of Kasota, Minnesota. In 1940 the couple’s only son, Gary, was born.
As a boy, Clair worked on his family’s farm, as well as the New Sweden Store and Creamery, Tegner Grocery, and the Konsbruck Hotel. In 1938 he began working for the J.C. Penney Company in St. Peter, Minnesota. His career would be briefly interrupted by service in the U.S. Navy, when he enlisted in 1944. He was trained as a radar operator and spent most of his wartime service aboard heavy cruisers, including the U.S.S. Baltimore, the U.S.S. Quincy and the U.S.S. Boston, all in the Pacific. He was involved in campaigns in the Philippines, the South China Sea, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. He was aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed on September 2, 1945.
Following an honorable discharge from the Navy, Clair resumed his career with the J.C. Penney Co, which would take him and his family many places, beginning with St. Cloud, Minnesota; Pipestone, Minnesota; and Jamestown, North Dakota. He then continued his career managing J.C. Penney stores in Hawarden, Iowa; Appleton, Minnesota; Benson, Minnesota; International Falls, Minnesota; Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A promotion to district manager brought him to Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bismarck, North Dakota; and finally Duluth, Minnesota.
In 1980, after 42 years with the J.C. Penney Company, Clair retired with his wife to Sun City West, Arizona. The couple went on to reside in Battle Lake, Minnesota and St. Cloud, Minnesota. After a return to Sun City West, Arizona, the couple lived in Sky Valley, Georgia, and then a final move to Alpharetta, Georgia. During his retirement years, Clair continued his philanthropy with Rotary, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion, as well as writing and publishing two autobiographies.
As a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church, Clair was an active member of many congregations, though his life centered around his home congregation of Norseland Lutheran Church, St. Peter, Minnesota. It is here he was baptized, confirmed, and he will be interned to rest.
Clair was preceded in death by his wife, Esther Pearl Heglund Olson; his parents, Nora and Ole Olson; his brothers: Kenneth, Donald, Verne, Mahlon, and Willis; and a granddaughter, Christina Pearl Olson Tredway. He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Gary and Arlene Olson of Duluth, Georgia; two granddaughters: Jennifer Bradley of Atlanta, Georgia and Rebecca Flynn of Duluth, Georgia. He is also survived by a sister-in-law, Alice Olson of St. Peter, Minnesota; seven great-grandchildren, and four great-nephews.
A visitation will be held on Friday, April 1, 2016 at 10am with a funeral service following at 11am at Norseland Lutheran Church, 37777 State Highway 22, St. Peter, MN. The Rev. Craig Ferkenstad will be officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to be made to Norseland Lutheran Church.