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LaNelle Olsen Memorial Minute

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LaNelle Olsen (1929 - 2019)
Northern Yearly Meeting 2019 Memorial Minute
Cannon Valley Friends Meeting, Northfield, MN

LaNelle Olsen was born on August 31, 1929 and raised in Texas. She was a member of the Friends Meeting of Austin and later joined the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting in Iowa, where she married Kenneth Olsen. LaNelle and Ken moved to Northfield, MN in 1962 and joined a small group of Quakers who met in each others’ homes. Eventually this group decided to form a Monthly Meeting and applied for membership in Northern Yearly Meeting as Cannon Valley Friends Monthly Meeting. After Ken Olsen passed away in 1986, LaNelle continued as a member and contributor.

LaNelle Olsen was committed to a life of kindness toward others and working for peace and social justice.  She was involved in advocating for those in need through the local community center, promoting equal rights for LGBT youth, protesting against bringing back the death penalty in Minnesota, and participating in the 1965 rebirth of the Northfield League of Women Voters. In September 2001, LaNelle helped organize silent peace vigils held every Saturday in downtown Northfield.  On one occasion she was confronted by a mother who felt the peace vigils were unpatriotic and disrespectful to her son fighting overseas. After listening with compassion, LaNelle’s heartfelt response was “May your son
return home safely.”

The characteristics most often mentioned about LaNelle Olsen were her smile that “could light up a room” and the loving kindness she never failed to share with everyone who crossed her path.  Memories shared at her memorial service included deep gratitude from a co-worker whose newborn baby LaNelle watched while the mother got some desperately-needed rest; a never-forgotten message LaNelle once shared in Meeting for Worship (“My name is LaNelle, and I have three words: Listen, Learn, and Love”); and a newly-arrived family on their first day in Northfield who were approached by LaNelle during her walk around the neighborhood--“Hello,” LaNelle said, “Are you okay?  Do you need any help with
anything?”  This family still remembers the acceptance and kind words of welcome expressed by their first neighbor in Northfield.

LaNelle Olsen touched the lives of many and is survived by her three children (Kirsten, Andy, and Peter) and three grandsons (Roy, Dempsey, and James).  We at Cannon Valley Friends Meeting will miss you greatly too, LaNelle.