A “dynamic duo” is together again. Aubrey Olson, 23, died of complication of Friedreich’s ataxia, last month. Two months ago her 21-year-old brother Nicholas passed away.
In 1998-99, the sister and brother from Pine City were national co-ambassadors for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. They didn’t let the disease slow them from full participation in school and community activities.
Their mother, Cindy Olson of Pine City, told the Star Tribune that her daughter couldn’t sleep after Nicholas died: “She just grieved so hard,” she said. “And with her condition, she didn’t have a lot of reserves.”
Services for Aubrey Olson were held at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 825 Golf Av. SW., Pine City. In addition to her parents, Cindy and Bruce Aubrey is survived by her sister, Brittney, and her grandparents, John and Joyce Olson.
Aubrey Olson spent more time in the hospital during the last nine months than at home, her mother said. She shattered her right elbow during a hunting trip last November. Her kidneys failed, too, putting pressure on a heart weakened by her disease.
But she was able to participate in graduation ceremonies in May at the University of Minnesota and to play soccer with a wheelchair team in St. Louis in February. She was close to completing a degree in child psychology, with a goal of attending law school. When she attended class, she was accompanied by a service dog, Kethry, a black Labrador retriever known for snoring during classes.
She played power soccer in tournaments across the country, swam and skied using adaptive skiing equipment. In her spare time, she was a volunteer for a homeless shelter in Minneapolis.
MDA President & CEO Jerry Weinberg remembers Aubrey’s optimism. In a post on the MDA Web site, he said, “Aubrey won the heart of everyone she met. She was always looking out for other people. She had great courage, a beautiful spirit and positive attitude,” Weinberg said.
Friedreich’s ataxia is a disease of the peripheral nerves that causes impairment of limb coordination, muscle and heart weakness. It is one of the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases in MDA’s program.
When Aubrey and Nick were MDA National Goodwill Ambassadors, they traveled across America for two years representing MDA and the families it serves. They appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. The entire family became active MDA volunteers after Aubrey and Nick were diagnosed with FA in 1995.
In Pine City, physical reminders remain of the duo’s lives and passions. Nicholas earned Eagle Scout honors by building a wheelchair-accessible ramp at Robinson Park. At Java Joe’s Bistro is the head of a moose that Aubrey bagged during a 2008 hunting trip.
Cindy Olson said that the two children, who were diagnosed with the disease when they were 5 and 7, taught her how to live in the moment—that “what’s happening now is what’s important.” Now she wonders about the family’s future.
“It is going to be hard for us to fill this void and reinvent our lives,” she told the Star Tribune. “They have been part of our pulse. They were our focus. They defined us. They inspired us.”