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Thomas A. Olson

December 31, 1937-Jan. 31, 2014-


Thomas A. OlsonTom was lovingly cared for by his family and died from cancer at his home early on Jan. 31st. He was born Dec. 31, 1937 to John & Jane Olson in Hammond. IN.

Tom grew up in Morris, IL, graduating from Morris High School in 1955. He received his Bachelor’s ­degree from Illinois State University in 1959 and his masters of Education in 1960. His teaching career began in Woodstock, IL. and he went on to become Illinois State Superintendent for Planning and ­Development. Jim Parsley chose these words to ­describe Tom’s character and abilities:

“Tom worked closely with me as a colleague for well over twenty years and his talent was remarkable. We shared strongly-held beliefs regarding the importance of public education and the strategic planning necessary to facilitate its improvement. He was a force nationally in this quest and an outspoken champion on behalf of future generations of school children. His ability to lead groups was aided by charm, wit and a keen ability to think on his feet. His voice and manner made for a commanding, but unifying presence. He was able to bring divergent views together with skill and aplomb. His contribution to any success I might have attained and to the success of educators he influenced was significant. Tom was indeed a dynamic and valued asset to American Public Education. With few his equal, he will be missed and long remembered”.

These abilities served him well as Director for NW Regional’s Ed Laboratory and as Executive Director of North Central Lab. Locally Tom was an active board member for Canby Education Foundation, ­facilitated Canby’s visioning process and wrote ­successful grants to help children. His knowledge of education and his writings and researching skills were great ­assets to the Save Our Schools organization of which he was co-founder. SOS was a prime priority at the time of his illness.

Tom and Mary Mariah Davis were married Aug. 31, 1986, at Leach Botanical Gardens in Portland and she survives. Also surviving are children, John Olson, Christine Corney, Laurie Sandsness, Kimberly Blake, Jeffry Davis; Grandson, Michael Olson and Tom’s ­sister, Judy Howen and two nephews. Tom thought of Mariah’s many Grands and Greats as his own ­extended family.

Tom was a caring, giving man. He gave of himself and his talents to help children, teachers, schools and our town. He filled Mariah’s life with happy surprises and they loved their traditional anniversary stay at Stephanie Inn in Cannon Beach. He was a great downhill skier; his favorite thing to do! His motto: “Skiing is Believing!” He loved music, all kinds, but always jazz. His collection is awesome. Tom was awesome, inspiring and very loved. A Celebration of Life will be Thursday, Feb. 20th at 3:00 p.m., at Canby Alliance Church, 900 N. Juniper, Canby, OR.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Canby Educational Foundation for the special Tom Olson Grant to help poor children, or to the Canby Center.