Olson donation to Park District creates a legacy

Olson donation to Park District creates a legacy

By In an unprecedented donation of land and cash, the estate of Roland and Gladys Olson has been accepted by the Rockford Park District and its citizens. The total gift is currently valued at $3.1 million.

In an unprecedented donation of land and cash, the estate of Roland and Gladys Olson has been accepted by the Rockford Park District and its citizens. The total gift is currently valued at $3.1 million.

The landmark gift consists of approximately 83 acres of land located east of I-90 and across Harlem Road from the entrance to the Roland Olson Lake at Rock Cut State Park, which was the Olson family home and farm. Land included in the gift is valued at approximately $1.6 million, with another $1.5 million in liquid assets in the Olson Trust. It is the largest donation ever received by the 21-year-old Rockford Park District Foundation or in the Rockford Park District’s 91-year history.

The long-term plans include developing the home and farm site into a community park, including a shelter that will accommodate approximately 100 people for picnics, weddings, family reunions, and other group activities. As the area grows in population, and funds from the trust revenues become available, other facilities such as softball, baseball and soccer fields will be added. The park area will be known as the Roland and Gladys Olson Community Park.

In addition, plans are under study to construct an 1890 working furniture shop in honor of the Olsons to be located at Midway Village & Museum Center. As currently conceived, a working furniture shop would be located on the first level, and a detailed history of the Swedish influence on the furniture industry in the Rockford area would be featured on the second level.

As plans are developed, the Olson Trust will provide the funding necessary to construct, operate and maintain both the Olson Community Park and the working furniture

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shop. Currently, plans call for completing both the park and furniture shop by 2009, the 100th anniversary of the Rockford Park District.

“We are delighted to receive this very generous gift from the Olson family and accept the enormous responsibility that comes with it,” remarked Kent Mallquist, president of the Rockford Park District Foundation. “We understand the Park District is not equipped to accept all donations of land, or to add more museum properties at this time. The Olson Trust provided a built-in endowment for the capital addition to Midway Village, a Rockford Park District museum since 1972, and provided the ongoing maintenance which is an absolute necessity when accepting any new gift of real estate.”

Art Anderson, a close personal friend of Mr. and Mrs. Olson and a member of the Rockford Park District Foundation, recounts many instances of the Olsons’ incredible generosity given throughout their lifetimes that benefit the lives of countless citizens, such as Olson Elementary School; Peter Olson Park; and Roland Olson Forest Preserve, a substantial donation of land made to the State of Illinois for the Roland Olson Lake at Rock Cut. They were most willing to share their good fortune with others and have made a tremendous impact in many lives because of their gifts.”

The Roland and Gladys Olson Trust was created during their lifetimes, and the Olsons desired that after their deaths, the Rockford Park District and its citizens would benefit through this gift of land and other assets to create a lasting memorial to the Olson family and their beloved Swedish heritage. Mrs. Olson passed away in February 1999, after Mr. Olson’s death in March 1998. The Olson Trust is managed by Bank One, Illinois N.A. as trustee.

“This gift is an incredible testament to the enormous vision of Rollie and Gladys Olson,” stated Webbs Norman, executive director of the Rockford Park District. “Their dream has been entrusted to the Park District to fulfill, and we look forward to creating an exciting legacy of sharing their Swedish heritage with many generations to come. I also humbly acknowledge that this donation is a tremendous tribute to the high esteem in which the Rockford Park District is held by its citizens.”

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