'It's the worst possible thing'
Area residents who knew Katherine Ann Olson as a child remembered her Monday as bright, talkative, adventurous and precocious. Olson and her family lived in Duluth from 1986 to 1994 while her father, Rolf Olson, was associate pastor at First Luth...
Area residents who knew Katherine Ann Olson as a child remembered her Monday as bright, talkative, adventurous and precocious.
Olson and her family lived in Duluth from 1986 to 1994 while her father, Rolf Olson, was associate pastor at First Lutheran Church.
"She struck me as being a brilliant little girl," Bea Ojakangas said. "When she learned to talk she talked full sentences and was able to really express herself really well. It's a loss to humanity for her to be gone this way."
Olson, 24, was found dead in the trunk of her car Friday after she went to meet someone in Savage, Minn., about a job as a nanny, which investigators said she had found on the popular Internet bulletin board Craigslist.org. Charges are expected to be filed today against a 19-year-old Savage man arrested Friday night for the murder.
"It's a terrible tragedy. Some of us have lost our own daughters and we have some sense of the terrible grief that this family is going through. There are really no words to describe it," said Tom Boman, a First Lutheran Church member who lost a daughter to cancer.
"What is particularly shocking is the thought of what her last hours must have been like," Boman said of Olson. "Those details haven't come out yet. You can only imagine, and it's the worst possible thing you could expect to happen to your daughter."
Olson was last seen by friends Thursday morning, when she went to meet someone about the nanny job. Her purse was found in a garbage can in a park. After Olson's roommate reported her missing, police returned to the park and found a garbage bag containing a bloody towel. An extensive search was launched, and Olson's car, with her body in the trunk, was found a few blocks away.
"It's such a loss when you have a young person like this that was so full of energy, and was a bright young woman," Boman said.
"It just thumps you when you hear this," said Richard Ojakangas, who remembers Olson as "very intelligent, very inquisitive, always interested in everything and always smiley. She was an adventuresome spirit."
Olson was co-valedictorian of the Park-Cottage Grove High School Class of 2002. She graduated from St. Olaf College in 2006. She spent several months working as a nanny in Turkey after answering an online ad.
First Lutheran parishioners remember the entire Olson family as outgoing and active. Katherine Olson's mother, Nancy, was involved in the creation of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Rolf Olson was active with a young adult group and started an early morning Bible study group.
"Rolf was always smiling, steady as they come," Richard Ojakangas said. "An excellent pastor, we really hated to see him leave, but young pastors move on to bigger jobs."
Bishop Peter Strommen was First Lutheran's pastor when Rolf Olson was associate pastor. Strommen has talked to him since Katherine's murder.
"Like I said to Rolf, and we both understood, I said 'There really aren't words, are there, Rolf?' And he said 'No, there really aren't. Thanks for the call.' I think at this point it's a matter of being surrounded by friends and family and people of faith just supporting them," Strommen said. "This is beyond words, and I think we're all feeling so badly for, not only what happened, but what they are going to have to go through for years to come."
Many people first learned of Katherine Olson's death when they received an e-mail written by her family. In it, Rolf Olson wrote:
"Ironically, I was at a conference in Burnsville on Friday on 'non-violent understanding of the atonement' [what God did in Jesus to reconcile the broken relationship between God and humanity]. This was a blessing since the whole day was wrapped in resurrection thinking. I am fortunate to still have that mindset in the face of this crushing loss. One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Robert Schuller. He wrote a condolence note to a man after the man's wife died. Schuller said he would pray for the widower 'in his loss.' The grieving husband replied: 'My wife is not lost. I know exactly where to find her.' I hold onto this promise now with a vengeance.
"Please keep us all in your prayers," Rolf Olson concluded. "We are relying on the strength of our friends to carry us through. God is good. Our family is strong. The resurrection is true. We will make it."