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John Olsen

October 28, 1946 — November 25, 2022

Obituary: John Robert “Jack” Olsen
10/28/1946-11/25/2022

John Robert “Jack” Olsen, 76, of Erie, CO died of natural causes at Good Samaritan Hospital in Lafayette, CO on November 25, 2022.

In his unpublished 600-page memoir (2017) The Children: A Vietnam War Memorial, Jack wrote: “My birth name was John Robert Olsen, which is what the Army knew me as. Most everyone else knew me as Jackie. My great-grandfather called me, ‘Kid’.”

“Kid” wrote the book for his kids, who survive him--James Winslow Olsen (Jessica), Michael Dale Olsen (Audrey), Jane MacArthur Mangus (Cody), and nephew Andrew Rzepiennik (Heather) whom Jack and his wife helped raise in Boulder. He had dodged questions about Viet Nam from his kids for years and now he wanted them to know the truth, an all too horrible truth. He is also survived by his wife of 35 years, Diane MacArthur Brown, to whom he dedicated the book with the statement, “Who Makes it All Possible”.

Jack hated the war, what he called “the institutional arrogance” which led to children killing children, yet he was awarded a Purple Heart (hit in the neck by shrapnel during a fire fight near An Loc) and a Bronze Star as a member of the U.S. Army 5th/46th Battalion, 198th Infantry Brigade. He could lead a charge as well as take a charge.

He later graduated from the Special Forces Recondo School in Viet Nam and joined the all-volunteer Americal Division airborne rangers in Chu Lai. After the war, Jack spent months at the National Records Center and years elsewhere declassifying documents and researching the causes of military blunders and lack of support that destroyed his line infantry unit and wounded or killed so many young men. He assisted CBS and Mike Wallace (and testified in pre-trial deposition) in the United States District Court case of Westmoreland v. CBS.

The impressive saga of a life filled with friendship, love and accomplishments that would fill several normal lifetimes began with Jack’s birth in Philadelphia, PA on October 28, 1946, to Beatrice Joyce (nee Schroeder) and John (Jack) Edward Olsen. Jack was raised in PA and Parkton, MD. He played basketball at Hereford (MD) High School where he might still hold the record for most missed shots, but he sank enough to earn a basketball scholarship to the University of Baltimore. For all his achievements in the military, journalism and law, Jack might prefer to be remembered most as the defender who best took a charge in pick-up basketball games throughout courts at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Northglenn High School.

Jack left the U. of Baltimore before graduation, enlisted in the army, and by December of 1967 was at Fort Hood, TX before being sent to Quang Ngai province in the northern part of Viet Nam. After discharge in 1969 he moved to Colorado where he received a BA from the University of Colorado in 1972 and served as editor of the Colorado Daily. During college he worked as a part-timer in the Denver Post sports department before being hired as a city-side reporter for the Post and subsequently for the Rocky Mountain News and United Press International. He was then Governor Richard Lamm’s press secretary while attending the University of Denver school of law and receiving his JD in 1978.

Briefly employed at Holme Roberts and Owen, he was lured to the Denver district attorney’s office by then DA Dale Tooley (after whom he named his second son). As deputy district attorney he worked on murder and insanity cases, as well as civil litigation. He also served as a special prosecutor in Boulder County. Following his public service, Jack formed his own private practice.

A first marriage to Mary Freeman produced two sons, James Olsen and Michael Olsen. Jack married Diane MacArthur Brown on June 13, 1987, in New York City. They made their home in Boulder, Niwot and Erie Colorado and added a daughter, Jane MacArthur Brown Olsen to complete the family in 1994. Coaching boys and girls basketball (at Fairview, Boulder, Niwot, Erie and Peak-to-Peak high schools) was his passion.

He was preceded in death by his parents and one brother, Jonathan (Lefty) Olsen. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, his three children, seven grandchildren, eight siblings, numerous nieces and nephews, and legions of former high school basketball players and satisfied clients. Jack loved his family, basketball, the law, his country, and the truth.

There was a private cremation. Arrangements were handled by Greenwood & Myers Mortuary, Boulder. A gathering of friends and colleagues will be held Thursday, January 12, 2023, 5:00pm to 7:00pm at the Boulder County Bar Association, 3269 28th Street, Boulder.
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Thursday, January 12, 2023

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