Cover photo for Mary E. (Holden)  Olson's Obituary
1939 Mary 2023

Mary E. (Holden) Olson

January 12, 1939 — November 7, 2023

Saint Paul

Our dear mom, our grandmother, aunt, great aunt and our friend Mary Ellen Olson passed away at 84 years of age on November 7, 2023. She was surrounded by her loving family.

She is survived by her daughter Carolyn Mary McCarthy (Bill - deceased November 11, 2023) and her granddaughter Emma, her son Jeffrey Warren Olson (Magda) and her granddaughter Isabella. She was preceded in death by her husband Warren Alexander Olson, her mother Mabel Marion Holden Petersen, her father Clarence Arthur Holden, her stepfather Roy Ky Petersen, and her brother Robert Lowell Holden.

Mary was born in St. Paul and remained a St. Paulite her entire life. She lost her father Arthur in her teen years, but she and her mother Mabel were resilient. Mary attended Mattocks Elementary, Central Highschool and Macalester College, majoring in French and Social Work. While in college, she met her future husband Warren, also a life-long St. Paulite. In the ensuing years, they became loving, proud and supportive parents to their children Carolyn and Jeff.

Mary had a beautiful mind, of which music was an integral part. She had an unwavering determination to play the piano, which began when she was a young girl, practicing daily on a cardboard keyboard. Over the years and with the eventual purchase of a piano she became a volunteer accompanist to both her son's elementary school orchestra and later, events at her community The Waters of Highland Park. As willing as she was to share her musical gift publicly, we will always remember her at home, sitting at the piano, surrounded by family, encouraging us to join her in song. Music was her last language.

Mary was a caregiver at heart. She taught Sunday school, was a Girl Scout leader and was the first to step up when help was needed caring for ill family members...her heart was full of kindness, generosity, and compassion. In the late 70's she decided to enter the "paid workforce" and took a position as an educational assistant at Highland Park Jr. High School and later, Highland Park Sr. High School. She was a respected colleague and in retirement would frequently get notes of gratitude from former students.

Granddaughters Isabella and Emma were welcomed into the family in 2002 and 2003, a month apart. This was a most welcome addition! Mary and Warren were doting grandparents who filled their lives and ours with memories of macaroni and cheese meals, handmade gifts, Christmas tree decorating, games spread out all over the living room floor and magical days of berry picking, swimming, dancing, hiking and "dock lunches" at their cabin on the Gunflint trail.

She was a wonderful host and keeper of traditions. The Olson home was one that was always welcoming to family and friends. Holidays were imbued with generosity and abundance and our table was always surrounded by extended family and friends. She particularly enjoyed decorating Christmas and Halloween cookies with her granddaughters and always brought a sense of humor (and sometimes irreverence) to the creative process/mess. She reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously.

Mary had a knack for making connections. She was interested in people and wanted to know their stories. She would walk into a room of strangers and leave with friends. Her warmth and openness were palpable.

Although she suffered from Alzheimer's disease, Mary took on the final period of her life the same as all her others, with engagement and laughter. Despite losing so much, her spirit was relentless and continued to be felt by old friends and new alike. In her last years Mary taught us all just how deep and ineffable a connection can be. Connections like the ones that Mary formed are everlasting and she will be in our hearts and in our beings forever. We love you!

A service to celebrate the life of Mary E. Olson will be held on January 12, 2023 at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 700 South Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55116. The visitation will be from 10am to 11am followed by the funeral at 11am. A luncheon will be held in Fellowship Hall (lower floor) of Gloria Dei following the funeral.

If desired, donations in the memory of Mary would be appreciated to:

The Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center (Gunflint Trail),

28 Moose Pond Drive,

Grand Marais, MN 55604


PO BOX 64718
SAINT PAUL, MN 55164-9696

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mary E. (Holden) Olson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, January 12, 2024

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

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Celebration of Life

Friday, January 12, 2024

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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