“Let’s take the young to the hills and woods and show them the glories. There is the future….”
Paul J. Olson died on July 5, 1993. But his legacy lives on. It lives on in Abrahams Woods, the Baraboo Hills and the thousands of acres preserved by the Nature Conservancy. It lives on in prairies of central Wisconsin with the booming of the prairie chicken. It lives on in the Madison School Forest.
But to measure Paul by the land he preserved and the birds he saved would not be the total story. He was a neighborhood leader who helped to make his community better by understanding the needs of a new community and finding a way to see those needs were met. He was an educator who touched the lives of thousands. Finally, he was a student whose thirst for knowledge and unconquerable spirit caused him to comprehend life and to overcome the obstacles that life placed in his path.
Alice Olson was the spark to Paul’s drive. Alice first learned to love the environment on a farm near Black Earth, WI where she took on the more challenging chores of plowing with horses, stream work, and milking. Not many young women of her day left the area but she traveled solo by train to nurse’s training in Minneapolis where she received her RN degree. Marrying Paul she became his partner in community service, raising funds for various conservation movements including the disappearing Prairie Chicken.
Together, Paul and Alice created change and fostered a love of the environment, and instilled the importance of conserving nature.
The Paul & Alice Olson Memorial Fund is a fund established within the endowments at the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (a 501c3). The primary purpose of Fund is to promote environmental education in and near Dane County and prairie chicken conservation. It is currently working with several educators to develop a more comprehensive environmental and educational program engaging school children in the Madison area.