The late Robert "Dr. Bob" Olson, 82, St, Louis Park
Nominated by Leah Patrick, 37, St. Louis Park
During the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, I received a note in our mailbox. The letter spoke admiringly of my miniature hosta collection, posed an invitation to tour a garden, and was attached to a copy of the lastest Hosta Journal. I knew the house this invitation came from, because I would often walk by it.
I initially met Bob in a garden full of rare hostas, under a fruit-filled apple tree. Other than trips to the VA for cancer treatment, Bob had been staying close to home. Over the summer, the kids and I would stop by to grab an apple from his tree or a Popsicle from his freezer and briefly catch-up. Before the winter, I offered to give him a haircut outside. He gladly accepted, but only if he could pay me; I agreed but only if the currency was hostas. This was the beginning of my friendship with Dr. Bob Olson.
Bob was a man who lived life to the fullest and appreciated a challenge. He excelled naturally in everything he took on and always had stories to share. Often when I cut his hair or stopped by with a weekly meal, he would reminisce about his time as a doctor in Vietnam, hiking the mountains of Japan searching for rare hostas or spending time with his daughters. He was my version of "Tuesdays with Morrie." His stories of Vietnam were history lessons, his quizzes on hosta were gardening tutorials and his weekly meal requests pushed my culinary skills. He was calm, particular, and I only saw him upset when I mistakenly called soil "dirt."
In his last week of life, he wanted an apple pie, which I baked with apples from his own tree. He ate it for dinner with ice cream. Even in his last week, he knew how to live. Friendships in life come in individual packages. This one was two years long, with a 45-year age spread. I'll miss our visits, our fancy lunches, our garden tours and his stories. I am so grateful for his friendship and the inspiration he gave me to live this life with fullness and curiosity.
Wendy Willson Legge, 69, Minneapolis
Nominated by Muria Kruger, 46, St. Paul
Wendy Willson Legge is a volunteer housing attorney with Volunteer Lawyers Network. Since retiring in the summer of 2018, Wendy has devoted over 1,000 hours assisting more than 550 low-income tenants and landlords with housing-court issues. She brings her experience and expertise into helping tenants avoid being evicted from their homes, and guides tenants as they raise repair issues with their landlords. She also assists low-income landlords regain their housing from tenants who won't leave. Wendy is a testament to how one can use their skills in retirement to continue to help a lot of people.
Laurie Hagen Jensen, 62, Savage
Nominated by Cory Gideon Gunderson, 62, Lakeville
About 18 months ago, Laurie Hagen Jensen accepted her stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis, but not its prognosis. In May, she ran the Stillwater Half Marathon — her first long-distance race.
Laurie has refused to "fight" her cancer. Instead, she is loving, "naturing" and running her way through it. She eats and drinks only that which is healthy. She fills her heart and mind with positivity. She surrounds herself with those she loves. She continues to find joy in doing for others. And what began decades ago as a ritual of daily walking (no matter the weather) has now been revved up into regular solo runs.
In a pocket close to her heart during the half marathon was a list of all those who've supported her in her journey as she ran to raise awareness and funds for the research into the early detection of pancreatic cancer. A squad of family and friends were there to cheer on Laurie, a mighty champion for hope, healing and health.