Obituary: Harold Olason


Harold Olason

March 29, 1934 – February 29, 2024


Harold Olason, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather passed into the arms of Jesus on Thursday, February 29, 2024, after a brief illness.

Harold was born in Akra, North Dakota to Skapti and Elin (Magnusson) Olason, the seventh of nine children. He spent his first fourteen years living on the homestead his Icelandic grandparents settled in 1881. He attended the local one-room schoolhouse, Eastman School, through the eighth grade. He never had more than two other classmates in his grade level.

They spoke Icelandic in the home, a skill he enjoyed throughout his life, sprinkling his conversation with humorous Icelandic terms to comment on people, places, and events. In his eighties, he spoke with Icelandic language researchers who were documenting how Icelandic was still used in North America. He was not pleased to learn they characterized his version of the language as “fossilized Icelandic.”    

The North Dakota winters of his childhood were filled with snow drifts and sub-zero temperatures. Summers were blazingly hot. He enjoyed recounting his childhood days on the farm in ways that left the impression that he’d grown up in a magical world.

In 1948 the family moved to Whatcom County, settling on a farm east of Blaine. Harold found a whole new world to explore at the local high school. Now that he had more than two classmates, baseball, football, and basketball were exciting new areas to explore.

He also continued his own farming pursuits, milking the dairy herd with his brother Dennis and was very active in the agriculture program at school.

After graduation, Harold began farming in earnest. He married Leona Joy Freeman, and they farmed together while raising their three children, Rob, Kristi, and Kraig.

Farming was everything to Harold. With it he could explore the ever-changing natural world through the annual seasons, something he relished throughout his life. He could also experiment with different crops and animals. He found his calling endlessly fascinating.

He was never more animated than when he could talk about a discovery he’d made, or a farming technique he was exploring, or even some funny thing the farm dog did that morning. The world he saw before him was always worth admiring in all its infinite variations.

He also gave back to the community by serving on the Blaine School board for several terms in the 1970s and 1980s.

As their farming life started to wind down, grandchildren began to fill their world. Harold and Leona leaped at the opportunity to entertain their growing family with annual retreats to Lake Chelan, big family dinners, and those special times spent with each of the grandkids.

They also started traveling, exploring the Southwest, Yucatan, Spain, and the “trip of a lifetime” for every western Icelander, traveling to Iceland and visiting the ancestral farm.

In their later years, Harold and Leona stayed busy with family events and both said they never really retired.

Harold’s passion for farming never diminished. In his late eighties, when he became too frail to go to the farm on a daily basis, he continued exploring “all things farming” by studying projects across the globe via all the YouTube videos he found posted by his fellow agrarians. And till the day he died, he always wanted to share the latest interesting discovery he’d made, including his plans to add his own idea for adapting what he had learned just as soon as he could get back to the farm. With so much yet to explore, yet to create, he died leaving many projects waiting in his “to-do” pile.

Harold is survived by Leona, his wife of 69 years; siblings, Mike Olason (Betty), Dennis Olason (Ann), and Sally Olason Cooper; children Rob (Anne), Kristi (Steve) Galbraith, Kraig (Brenda); grandchildren Andrew (Dan) Galbraith, Bryan (Danielle) Galbraith, Melissa (Dan) Healey, Perry Olason, Lily Olason, Rebecca Olason, and Paul (Emiko) Olason; great-grandchildren Daisy Galbraith, Iris Galbraith, and Rosalyn Healey; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life service will be held at Grace Lutheran Church in Blaine, WA on Saturday March 23, 2024, at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to Stafholt Health and Rehabilitation or Grace Lutheran Church, in Harold’s memory.

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