"The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away." This quote embodied how Johanna Olson lived her life.
Johanna loved to share her passion for running and life. She connected with and inspired many people in her roles as coach, teacher, friend and mentor. She was a runner and a fighter, battling brain cancer for over 15 years before her fight ended Jan. 3, 2013, at the age of 33.
Johanna had all the best qualities desired in a friend, sister, teammate and daughter. She was vibrant, smart, courageous, encouraging, positive, funny, tough and inspiring. She grew up in Wadena with her parents, Jane Bagstad and Terry Olson, and sister, Marney.
At an early age, Johanna started running and never looked back. Prior to being diagnosed with a brain tumor as a college freshman, she was already an accomplished runner. She won the Division III cross country championship in 2000, three years to the day after her initial brain surgery. A seven-time all-American, Johanna qualified to run the Olympic trials marathon in 2004 and 2008.
Johanna graduated from Luther College in 2001 and earned a master's degree from Oregon State. She went on to work as an exercise physiologist at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Ore.
Johanna was an amazing runner, but one of her proudest moments wasn't her fastest time; it was crossing the finish line at the Twin Cities Marathon in October 2012 with "Team Joha," despite undergoing treatment for the recurrence of her brain tumor. Her dedication and perseverance cannot be matched.
Johanna loved her family and friends, living out west, running in the mountains and helping others accomplish their dreams. She could light up a room faster than she could light up a running race - and that's fast!
Johanna left many footprints along the running trails, but even more on the lives of those she met. She will be missed, but never forgotten.
A Celebration of Life will be held Jan. 19 from 1-5 p.m. with a 2 p.m. service at Hamline University's Klas Center, 1537 Taylor Ave. St. Paul, MN. A service will also be held at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wadena 2 p.m. Jan. 26.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the "Johanna Olson Fund," OnPoint Community Credit Union, 950 NW Bond St., Bend, OR 97701-2706 or Brain Cancer Research, Department of Development, Mayo Clinic, 200 1st St. SW, Rochester, MN 55905-9817.