Eleanor  Lockridge Olson


Eleanor Page Lockridge Olson, formerly of Park Rapids,  passed away peacefully on February 2, 2023, at Bridges Cornell Heights in Ithaca, NY at the age of 93. Eleanor was born Nov. 17, 1929 to Tom and Helen Lockridge on the family farm near Russell, IA, at the beginning of the Great Depression. Her father’s struggle to hold onto the farm in the face of economic collapse and severe drought made a huge impression on her--as did her mother’s effort to make their lives as good as possible under difficult circumstances.  Eleanor rode her pony to country school and excelled at her studies. She attended high school in Chariton, IA.  Her first two years of college were spent at the all-women’s Rockford College in Illinois, and she finished her B.A. degree in Design at the University of Iowa. She began her working life in Minneapolis, starting as a copywriter for Dayton’s, and then moving into their in-house interior decoration department. She went on to open Dayton’s new decorating studio at their store in Rochester, MN.  In Minneapolis, she met her future husband, Harold Curtis Olson. She told her children that “he was the most interesting man I ever met.” They married in 1955. Their first daughter, Page, was born in 1958, when they were living in Thief River Falls, MN, where Harold worked for the Soil Conservation Service. A  second daughter, Anne, was born in 1962, the year the young family moved to St. Cloud, MN. Eric was born in 1968.      Eleanor provided a rich and diverse life for her young children, full of trips to the library, an open-door policy for the neighborhood children, DIY carnivals and holiday decorations, homemade gifts and always delicious food. Vacations were spent exploring nature and camping in Minnesota’s state parks. She and Harold forged a fruitful creative partnership as they renovated and decorated the houses they lived in. In 1973, Harold took early retirement from the SCS and the family moved north to 40 acres on the Straight River, south of Park Rapids. On Pinewood Farm, Eleanor was in her element. She gardened, first growing vegetables to feed the family, then cultivating flowers as family demands lessened. She and Harold renovated, landscaped, and molded their forty acres of woods and meadows into a park. She bought horses for the girls. Her sewing machine was always busy. She and Harold were involved in civic life in Park Rapids in several ways. Together, they were instrumental in helping to establish Heartland Homes, the first group home in the area for developmentally challenged adults. They worked hard to support the fledgling North Country Museum of Arts (now Nemeth Art Center) and Eleanor was a staunch Friend of the Library and belonged to a very active Homemakers group, run through the U of M Extension. She sewed baby layettes for the hospital to distribute to new parents in need. For many years they attended Trinity Episcopal Church. Eleanor worked for a time as a teacher’s aide in the art room at the Middle School, where she was able to share her love of making things with students.  Eleanor was a homemaker with expertise and artistry. She made her own laundry soap, potato chips, and homemade ketchup before any of that was fashionable! If she needed a piece of furniture to complete an arrangement, she went down to the woodworking shop in the basement and made it. “I can’t” was not in Eleanor’s vocabulary. Her work ethic was legendary in the family. In latter years, Eleanor continued to share her warmth and love with the people she met. She retained her passion for color, pattern and design, and a home decorating magazine never failed to engage her attention. She and Harold were married for sixty-three years, and they looked after one another with love and concern until Harold died in January of 2019. We miss them both so much. Eleanor is survived by her children, Elisabeth Page Mitteness (Rick), Anne Lockridge Bialke (Bill), and Eric Oliver Olson, grandchildren Aaron Mitteness, Madeleine, Julia and Audrey Bialke, and great-grandchildren Skye and Thorsten Mitteness. 

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