Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes

1730 East Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI


Russel Herbert Olson

September 27, 1962June 7, 2019

Russel Herbert Olson, 56, passed away unexpectedly on Friday, June 7, 2019 in Okemos, Michigan. Born in Lansing, Michigan on September 27, 1962 to Herbert and Mary (Leach) Olson, Russel was a passionate historian who spent his life learning everything he could. He was a gifted musician on a variety of instruments and was in an East Lansing-based band for many years. He taught in the Haslett area, first with adults continuing their educations, then at an alternative high school, and finally at the high school history level before leaving the field to study social work at Grand Valley State University. He was currently working on his Master’s Degree in Social Work, with a goal of working with veterans and others suffering from PTSD.

He was preceded in death by his father, Herbert W. Olson.

He will be lovingly remembered by the light of his life, his son Ruslan Olson; his mother, Mary L. Olson; his siblings, Scott (Andrea) Olson, Mary E. (Richard) Rose, and Christopher N. Olson; his uncle, Nolan (Judy and cousins) Leach; his many Olson cousins; and Ruslan's mother, Veronica.

A Celebration of Russ's Life will be held on Friday, June 14, 2019 from 7pm until 9pm at the Okemos Masonic Lodge #252, 2175 Hamilton Rd in Okemos.

In honor of Russ, memorial contributions may be made to Ruslan's college fund at gf.me/u/tcwz8c


  • Celebration of Life Friday, June 14, 2019


Russel Herbert Olson

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kim Rahl

June 14, 2019

My condolences to the family. Russ was one of my fencers. He was a very passionate individual. He was always engaging to talk to and I enjoyed teaching him. He was fully immersed in any endeavor he undertook and had a lot of empathy for the people he encountered. His passing is a definite loss to all of the lives he touched. I am so sorry Ruslan has lost his father while still young. A difficult thing at any age.

Don Dike

June 12, 2019

Russ was a Renaissance man. His interests were broad, and his capacity to relate to others was vast. In high school he was popular: Smart, athletic, talented and curious. Russ transcended stereotyping and was an instant honorary member of any and every clique in school: Athlete? Check. Scholar? Check. Musician? Check. The list is long. Russ strove to excel in everything he put his hand to, and did just that. He was a great guy, and a good friend. I will miss him.

Frank DeWald

June 11, 2019

It was my great privilege to be Russ' choir teacher when he was a student at Okemos High School. I have many fond memories of those days -- including his performance as Sky Masterson in GUYS AND DOLLS. More recently (although it was still a good ten years ago or more) he reached out to me for coaching because he was going to sing at someone's wedding. It was wonderful to see him, and especially to greet him as a fellow teacher. I assured him he didn't need any coaching, but it was typical of his sound, careful (and humble!) approach to everything that he thought he did. Rest in peace, Russ. I expect you to sign up for that heavenly choir! They need your magnificent bass! :) And condolences to all the loved ones he has left behind.

Eddie Fisher

June 11, 2019

My condolences to the family and friends of Russ. He was a brilliant man, his high intelligence and extreme music talent instantly made a massive impression. I was privileged to be a part of one of his bands in the mid-90’s. Russ had a big heart and an insatiable appetite for knowledge. He touched many through education, I wish I could’ve had him as a professor growing up. My heart goes out to his family and his son, most of all.
God Bless and Best Regards,
Eddie Fisher.

Steve Davis

June 11, 2019

My heart is deeply saddened by this news of the loss of a gifted musician, historian and highly intelligent educator. I had the pleasure of working at Marshall Music with Russ many years ago when we were both young musicians. Russ was a brilliant student of history, quick witted and a natural talent on the guitar, I had the opportunity later on to meet up with him again during some recording sessions as a studio musician and felt very fortunate to do so. My most sincere condolences to family and friends of Russ, he clearly made such a positive impact on others through his years of teaching and sharing his gift of music! You will be greatly missed Russ, your time here was far too short.

Lisa Vanderley (Kennedy)

June 11, 2019

This news leaves a huge hole in my heart.

I met Russ when he first started his teaching career as a substitute teacher at Mason High School. I was in a bad place in my life and everything was overwhelming and seemed hopeless. I truly believe I'm still here today because of him. Because he recognized that stress and trauma just by looking at me and actually SEEING me, not just seeing another face in the crowd like all the other teachers did.

Our paths crossed several times since then. He always had kind words and an uplifting message. He always wanted to know what I was up to and that I was doing well. And he loved to communicate with me in German, even though I haven't spoken it since high school! Russ did everything he could to keep my mind, and his own, sharp. He hated it when I called him Mr. Olson after graduating even when I told him it was weird to call him Russ.

Ruslan was his world. I haven't had the opportunity to meet his pride and joy, but whenever he spoke of Ruslan, he would get stars in his eyes and his pride just oozed out of him. Ruslan, please know that your father loved you with everything he had.

Mr. Olson (because it's weird), I will miss your crazy hair, your random singing or guitar just because, your pushing my German skills to remember what I thought I had forgotten, your desire to always be there to help even if it was just to listen for five minutes, your beautiful cautious side that could also be your downfall, the smile you always shared even when you were hurting, a most importantly, your huge heart. Yours is a presence that cannot be replaced, cannot be matched. I will miss you each day that I have left.

Travis Stirewalt

June 10, 2019

Studying under Russel Olson at Haslett High School was a true privilege and a gift. He was highly intelligent, fiercely enthusiastic, and an extremely rare kind of educator.

Above all, he emphasized the unyielding, uninhibited, fearless pursuit of knowledge.... and this was very clearly exemplified every day in his classroom.

I will always remember his emphasis on educating “the young men and women that will lead after we old men have passed on”.

I will be forever grateful that I had the privilege to attend Haslett Public Schools, and that I grew up under the care and guidance of selfless educators like Mr. Olson...

Thank you for everything you’ve done for me Sir, you will not be forgotten.

Rest In Peace Mr. Olson.

Rebecca Barrett

June 10, 2019

Mr Olson was one of my favorite teachers when i went to Meridan. He was always calm and understanding even in situation when others would not be. He helped guild me into the adult i am today and was just an all around amazing man who touched many kids. The world truly is a sadder place without him

Cristina Whitehouse (Zuker)

June 10, 2019

Of the teachers I had, Mr. Olson was by far my favorite and the one that impacted me the most. He kept my attention, challenged my ideas and accepted me for what I was- a bright- eyed idealistic teenager with many opinions. We had many conversations about the future, both political and sociological topics as well as conversations about our children. I hope that his family and his son feel comfort in knowing how many lives he impacted and how wonderful a man he was. I won't forget what he taught me in the classroom, as well as the lessons he helped me with in life.

Tina Coolman

June 10, 2019

So very sad to hear the news!
I will miss the lengthy, insightful deep conversations. He was truly one of a kind!! RIP Russ 💔