Nicholas Olson, who served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, died June 10 at age 21.
The young man from Pine City was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia in 1995, as was his sister Aubrey. In 1998 and 1999, Nick and Aubrey, now 23, were named MDA National Goodwill Ambassadors. They were the first siblings to be named MDA Ambassadors since 1964. MDA President and CEO Gerald C. Weinberg said, “They both won my heart the minute I met them. Nick was delightful and charming. Nick’s playful attitude and happy smile will be dearly missed.” The brother-sister team traveled extensively across America, representing MDA and the families it serves. A tribute to this young man is posted at www.mda.org/
Friedreich’s ataxia is a degenerative neuromuscular disease. Olson was in wheelchair by fourth grade. As a 14-year-old, he was struck and injured by a motor vehicle. But Olson didn’t let that stop him from living an active life, doing everything from participating in health research studies for the National Institute of Health to winning Eagle Scout honors for building a handicapped-accessible ramp for the pavilion at Robinson Park in Pine City.
He was elected the 2007 homecoming king at Pine City High School. He attended technical school after graduation from high school. He loved to travel and follow current events.
After his death, family members recalled Olson’s friendly nature and caring for other people. He and his service dog, Henry, would visit nursing homes. He is survived by his parents, two sisters and his grandparents.
Arthur E. Noot
Arthur E. Noot, 77, died of complications of cancer June 6 in Stillwater. He spent his career in social services, eventually serving as state welfare commissioner under Gov. Al Quie. Even in years of drastic state budget years, Noot fought to protect programs for the poor and mentally ill, Quie told the Star Tribune.
Kevin Kenney, a deputy commissioner for Noot, said he and Noot drafted a bill that eventually passed to help pay for increased welfare grants and mental health programs. He said Noot supported the bill, but was impatient with the Legislature. “He simply couldn’t deal with their indecisiveness,” Kenney said.
Quie said he chose Noot, who was then deputy welfare director for Ramsey County, for his administrative experience, honesty and knowledge of social services. “He understood what was happening in the community,” Quie said. “He was easy to talk to. … He never beat around the bush. I knew exactly where he stood.”
Noot grew up during the Depression years, which friends said shaped his attitudes toward the poor. But he served the state during years of extreme and unpopular budget cuts. Some of most drastic budget cuts in state history had to be made in 1981. At that time Noot said the cuts were forced by a recession and inflation, not by social services clients. He often felt the program clients were used a scapegoats.
Noot volunteered as a Big Brother and as a reader for the blind, He is survived by his wife, son, two daughters and seven grandchildren.