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Donald M. Olsen

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COLUMBUS — Donald M. Olsen, 91, Columbus, died May 28, 2022, at his home at Meridian Gardens, Columbus.

Memorial services are planned June 10, at 11 a.m., at the Wintz Funeral Home, Hartington, with the Rev. Amanda Talley officiating.

Burial of his cremated remains will be at Paragon Cemetery, rural Hartington, with military honors by the Hartington VFW Post #5283 and the Legion Riders.

Visitation with family will be from 10 a.m. until service time. Arrangements are under the direction of the Wintz Funeral Home, Hartington.

Following the committal service at the cemetery, a lunch will be served at Trinity Lutheran Church, Hartington. Honorary pallbearers will be Kenneth “Skip” Schriver, Gale Jones, Tom Ertel, Leroy Olsen, Edward Olsen, Larry Olsen and William Beckenhauer.

Donald Maurice Olsen was born in Hartington (Cedar County), on Oct. 18, 1930, as the first-born child to Maurice Benjamin and Mae Louise (Strathman) Olsen. Don graduated from Norfolk High School in 1948, and went on to attend Norfolk Junior College. In 1950, he transferred to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and joined the Air National Guard as a personnel specialist. Weeks later, his Guard unit, the 173rd Fighter Bomber Squadron, was activated in support of the Korean War. He served on active duty for two years at various state-side installations. After his Honorable Discharge, he returned to UNL and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in business administration in 1954. While at UNL, Don met and married Imogene “Vicki” Vickers, and the couple had two children.

Don was hired by State Farm in 1954, and he served in a broad array of positions as he advanced through the management ranks. He spent 16 years working at the corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Ill. Most notably, Don led efforts by State Farm to automate its data processing in the early days of computing. Don was later promoted and sent to Austin, Texas to manage State Farm Fire and Casualty operations across southwest Texas. Another key highlight of Don’s career was to lead a task force established to standardize and simplify the language of homeowners’ insurance policies. Working with insurers, consumers and regulatory officials, this successful multi-year effort garnered praise across the insurance community and was resoundingly adopted by all stakeholders. During his time with State Farm, Don earned designations as a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter and a Chartered Life Underwriter. Don’s final position with State Farm was as the Auto Operations Manager for the South Texas Regional Office. He retired in 1996.

Don later returned to Nebraska and became involved in many activities. He took over as the President of the Paragon Cemetery Association, a rural Cedar County cemetery established with land donated from his pioneering great-grandfather Bernhardt Olsen’s homestead. Through his leadership, an endowment was established to fund the upkeep of the cemetery in perpetuity. He sponsored the cemetery and former surrounding community of Paragon, garnering its recognition with a Nebraska Historical Marker. He also researched and published a booklet identifying the original 17 pioneering families who founded the Paragon community.

Don rekindled his relationship with a junior college sweetheart, and in 2006 Don married Patricia Ann (Patterson) Beckenhauer. The couple enjoyed many years of travel and community involvement in Columbus. They were deeply involved with their church missionary work and, themselves, traveled to Petrozavodsk, Russia, to teach English to Christian youth in an affiliated Lutheran church.

Don is survived by his wife, Pat; and his two children, Jay and Jill; his siblings, Larry, Judy and Linda; and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Trinity Lutheran Church and designated for the Paragon Cemetery Association Endowment Fund, 106 W Centre St, Hartington, NE 68739; or donations may be made to a charity of choice in honor of Don.