John Kalmer Olson, Sr., 84, passed away peacefully in his sleep on May 7, 2018, at home in Billings.
John was born on a farm in Tyro Township, Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota, on July 24, 1933, to Arnold and Lenore Olson. John was baptized and confirmed at Clarkfield Lutheran Church. He attended elementary schools in Clarkfield, Blue Earth County, Nicollet County, and Mille Lacs County, Minnesota, and high school in Clarkfield, Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Army at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri; Ft. Belvoir, Virginia; and TDY at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts, during the Korean Conflict.
John met Cathryn Mary Waterman, originally from New Gloucester, Maine, at a USO dance in Washington, D.C., in November of 1954. John and Cathy were united in marriage on March 17, 1956, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. They began married life in Minneapolis, then moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where they started their family. They were blessed with four children.
John attended The University of Minnesota for several years before pursuing a career in the Travel and Tourism Industry. John’s early career was as a Passenger Agent for Capital Air Lines and United Airlines at Washington’s National Airport. He joined Northwest Airlines as a Sales Representative in Washington, D.C. His territory included Capitol Hill, The Military Complex, numerous association and travel companies in Virginia, District of Columbia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He was transferred to Spokane, Washington, as District Sales Manager for parts of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Idaho. When he was asked by the Governor of Montana to form that state’s first Convention and Tourism Office, he accepted the challenge.
John was then invited to join Yellowstone National Park’s primary concession company as Director of Marketing and Sales. In that position for 17 years, John traveled throughout the world with his marketing staff promoting “The World’s First National Park.” Following retirement, John formed Global Tourism Marketing, first based in Yellowstone and later in Clarkfield, Minnesota. As a consultant, John continued to market the Tourism product.
Throughout his career, John remained active in the Travel and Tourism Industry serving on numerous Boards and Committees. He was very active in The Travel Industry Association of America. For many years, he was a board member of The Old West Trail Association and Foundation and served the five-state organization in all officer positions and as Executive Director. He was also an active member and participant in The Pacific Northwest Travel Association, The Foremost West, and The California Travel Industry Association.
John was also the recipient of numerous awards and honorary appointments. He was presented with “The Westerner Award.” “The Big WYO Award,” “Wyoming Cowboy,” “Honorary Secretary of State of the State of Montana,” “The Honorary Order of Kentucky Colonels” and a number of “Tourism Man of the Year Awards.”
John was preceded in death by his parents, Arnold and Lenore Olson. He is survived by his wife Cathryn; four children, Jeffrey (Anna) Olson of Jackson, Wyoming, Patty Lauver of Billings, John Olson, Jr. of Jackson, and Stephanie Lohse of St. Paul, Minnesota; seven grandchildren, Casey (Graham) Nicholas, Dan (Ali) Lauver, Sarah Lauver, Zoltán Lohse, Marcus Olson, Martha Olson and Pearl Olson; and one great-grandson, Stephen Lauver. He is also survived by his sister, Beatta Swanson, and numerous nieces and nephews.
A private family celebration of John’s life will be held in the Yellowstone Park area during the summer. His ashes will be buried at a later date at the New Gloucester Cemetery in New Gloucester, Maine.
Think of John the next time you travel through Yellowstone!!