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Laura Olson's Obituary

Laura OlsonLaura Olson

Long time Leaburg resident Laura Maxine Olson passed away in her sleep on December 31, 2014, at RiverBend Hospital in Springfield. She was born on June 16, 1927, in Baker City, Oregon, to Rhetta and Arthur Olson. She grew up in North Powder and the family later moved to Corvallis and Portland.

Laura graduated from Jefferson High School in North Portland in 1945 and was accepted into the journalism program at the University of Oregon in Eugene and was a member of Delta Delta Delta. After college Laura attended Radcliff University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to take a course in publication procedures.

Laura’s first job as a journalist was working at the True Detective Magazine in New York, after gaining experience at the Vancouver shipyards fingerprinting and photographing employees. She became a line editor, writing 6 to 8 articles every month about criminals wanted by the FBI. Her next job was with the New York Herald Tribune’s news and promotion department, a position she held for two years. Laura left the Tribune for a job at the UO as a women’s counselor and Assistant to the Dean of Women. After one year, and missing journalism, she went to work for the Cottage Grove Sentinel newspaper, where she stayed for over a year. She then moved to the Roseburg News Review as a reporter, political writer and farm editor.

During her time at the Review (1954-1956) Laura became more politically inclined. A chance encounter with a candidate for Congress changed the course of her future. Late one evening Charlie Porter knocked at the door requesting to use a typewriter. Never one to let an opportunity pass by, Laura decided to interview him. The current congressman, Harold Ellsworth, who Porter was running against, owned the newspaper. Porter won the election and days later offered Laura a job in Washington, D.C. She accepted when the Review’s editor told her she would always have a place at the paper if it didn’t work out.

During Porter’s two terms in Congress Laura was involved in constituent services and agricultural issues. After Porter’s defeat she went to work for Oregon’s new senator, Maureen Neuberger, and then, from 1962 to 1968 she was a legal assistant to Senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska.

Laura changed careers when the head of National Endowment for Humanities offered her the job of Director of the Information Office. She stayed in that post for over a year, then was appointed as Chief, Clearing House and Information Section, Population Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific, headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand.

Laura lived in Thailand from April of 1970 until December of 1981. She traveled extensively in her job visiting, all the Asian countries and some South Pacific islands. Her job focused on identifying what countries were doing in terms of social development.

In 1981 Laura quit that job and returned to Oregon to be with her 80-year old father. She volunteered to work on Jim Weaver’s congressional campaign. After his election, she stayed in a constituent services job in Weaver’s office until his retirement in 1986. That year Laura considered running for the Oregon House but decided to stay on the river to be with her father, who died in 1997 at the age of 103.

Laura was always active with the McKenzie River Chamber of Commerce, helping to get holiday lights on the Goodpasture Covered Bridge and encouraging people to “Light Up the Valley” during Christmas. She was active in the Neighborhood Watch, Rural Library Board, Lane County Roads Advisory Committee; President of the Lane County Democratic Committee; Home Extension; BUNCO; member of the Garden Club (she was part-time and was called a “potted plant”); the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon; Oregon Democratic Committee State Budget Chairperson for 1 year; Wayne Morse Historical Park Corporation Board Chairperson for 3 years. She was also named Woman of the Year in the McKenzie River Reflections. Laura was also an active member in the Vida McKenzie Community Center, where she served as secretary for many years.

Where remembrances may be sent, as well as the date and location of Celebration of Life for Laura, will be determined at a later date.


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