Tribute To A Dear Friend - Janet Olson
November 18, 2020
Jill Maria Murdy wrote a beautiful tribute to my Auntie Janet Olson. I grew up in the same home with her, and she was like a second Mother to me. I thought this tribute was perfect and I want to share it. Dawn Overcast
I found out today that I lost a very dear friend, my first grade teacher, Janet Olson. As a teacher, "Miss Olson" was gentle, with a sweet sing songy voice, and she had the ability to look at you and listen, and make you feel like you were the most important person in the world when she talked with you. I remember that we made these little "spelling books" which were long and narrow with a construction paper cover, and sheets of writing paper, and held together with two of those paper brads. It was wide enough to write a single word, and long enough for like 8 or 10 words. My first spelling test, I made a mistake and got a word wrong, and I was mortified. I was upset and crying. After that test, we were to start on the project that was legendary....taking salt clay and making these igloos for our eskimo village. We'd been prepping for it forever I think. Anyways, I was so upset I didn't want to do it. She let me put my head down and regroup, and then invited me a few minutes later to join in on the clay fun. I remember how exciting it was when we finished our first "Dick, Jane, and Sally" primer, and finishing your work and going to do SRA packets. I loved independent study. Later in life she told me a story about me always being worried about leaving as quickly at lunch hour as I could, as I told her I had to go home and make lunch. She was a bit concerned and was wondering what responsibilities a first grader had, so she asked me and found out that "Oh, Mamma makes sandwiches with our names on them, and I have to put them out at our places." (My mother was a night nurse and prepared meals before she went to bed in the morning, and as kids we fended for ourselves until my Dad got home for lunch. He walked to and from Dr. Leeds office (just a few blocks) In the back of the Meadowlark school, there was a place on the playground where it got naturally icy in the winter. At recess we would run and slide down the ice. One time, I didn't get up fast enough and the next person came and slid into me, kicking
me in the head. I think it was Brucie Domino. I recall her comforting me until I got to go home. I ended up with a mild concussion over that one. Another cool project was when we brought in styrofoam meat packing trays, and old Christmas cards, and put glue and glitter around the edge, before attaching the card so it was a "frame". As I recall she always made learning fun. She also told me that I was a perfectionist when it came to printing my letters. I found that really fascinating. I'm not sure when that gear switched off, but I think perhaps because I couldn't color in the lines as well as I wanted to I just decided to make my own lines. I also remember the guppies!!!!! And the whole class walking down to the tasty freeze for cones on the last day of school. Later on, Janet would join with her sister Elsa to own E & J's which was the "fancy" woman's clothing store in Chinook. This was before there was a shopping mall in Havre, and no Kmart or Walmart; so most shopped local. I recall one brand they sold was "Koret" probably stuff you'd find in a Kohl's store. Elsa and Janet were always so welcoming, but it was a new experience, because they'd check in to see how you were doing in the dressing room etc. Frances Ewing and Vonda Montgomery worked there too. Mother probably should have been on the payroll. After she slept for the day, she would go uptown to get the mail, maybe stop at Gruss's Electronics, Buttery's, and pop her head in E&J's to see "what was new" or "What's on sale" but she would see you there and hold up an outfit and say, "Oh (name), you should try this on it is so your color!" Being a good bargain shopper, Mother often waited for the sales, and E&J's were legendary! When I was at Sacred Heart Monastery, when Mom and Dad came to visit, Elsa and Janet often sent big boxes along, with clothes and shoes and things from their clearance rack. It made a rather festive party at the Monastery! I remember even after I left the community, there was a picture of me in my Novice veil hanging in the store for a long time. Years later, after they sold the store, E&J were in Havre shopping at Kmart. Old habits die hard, and soon they were straightening out a clothing rack. Management saw them, and hired them to do just that! They worked there for a number of years.
E&J lived right beside the high school, and I walked through the alley and right by their house on my way. Janet would be out with their little dog, "Mr Jinx" and we would often chit chat. They were so kind when Mother died too. Both my folks had helped when their dad was ill. Often when I was on vacation I would stop at the house and see them, and we would have a great time catching up on life. I can think of so many memories, and I'm so grateful for this beautiful woman for being in my life, and helping me get such a good foundation on my education. Rest in peace dear Janet. You are loved and missed.
Jill Maria Murdy