Whether on-air or off, David Olson loved conversation.

During a decades-long career in broadcast journalism, he moderated a public affairs talk show, profiled college presidents and chatted up newly crowned Princess Kays of the Milky Way as they sat for their butter sculptures, all with equal enthusiasm.

"He could interview anyone about anything," said Stuart Sanders, development director at KUOM (770 AM) and a longtime friend. "He was amazingly talented."

Olson, a longtime news director and anchor at the University of Minnesota-owned and -operated radio station, died Oct. 19 from a heart attack. The Mendota Heights resident was 72.

The station, commonly known as "Radio K," has a rock format now, but in its news heyday, Olson produced and anchored "Scope," a one-hour weekday newscast.

His broadcast journalism career also included a 10-year stint as moderator of the Senate Media Services' "Capitol Report."

He mentored the staff, often inviting all 18 of them for weekend cookouts and basketball games, Senate Media Services director Steve Senyk said.

"He was our surrogate dad," Senyk said. "He never asked a lot of us, but he always offered a lot."

He also spent a year as a fellow with the East-West Center, an organization developed to strengthen relations between the Eastern and Western worlds. During the yearlong fellowship, he traveled through Japan, surviving on fast food and helping Japanese journalists, print and broadcast, learn the business.

When Olson wasn't anchoring or interviewing guests, he was sharing his rich baritone voice with audiences as a member of a community choir associated with St. Paul Academy and Summit School.

"As we say in the [business], he had great pipes," Sanders said.

Olson was also a Scoutmaster who struggled to erect camp tents and a soccer dad who'd cram 10 or 11 children in the family van to rush them to a match, said his wife, Nancy Fushan, a former Minnesota Public Radio journalist.

Her husband wasn't stuck in the past, she said, but still clung to tradition. To address letters, he'd pull out his vintage typewriter, and he loved to tool around in his 1962 Olds F-85 convertible.

Olson was also a photography and aviation enthusiast, she said.

In the months before his death, Olson made one last stop by the Senate Media Services office to catch up with the crew, Senyk said.

"He came in as if he was saying goodbye," Senyk said. "It was a wonderful conversation, one that I will treasure for many, many years."

Olson is survived by his wife; son, Aaron Fushan-Olson; and sister, Delores Johnson.

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491