Piano teacher reached thousands

FAIRMONT – “I’ve really been blessed,” Irene Olson told the Sentinel in January 2013.

At the time, she was still teaching 33 students in piano, planning recitals, and performing for church services, funerals and weddings. It wasn’t until this past spring that Olson began to slow down.

“She hadn’t been feeling well around the beginning of April,” said her son Stephen of East Chain. “But she had a lot of things she wanted to get done.”

Olson died Tuesday in Fairmont at the age of 80 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just three weeks prior. Services for Olson are being held at 11 a.m. today at United Methodist Church in Fairmont.

“We knew there weren’t many pancreatic cancer survivors,” Stephen said. “I think it’s important to note that she lived her life right up to the time she died. All she talked about was getting through the recitals and then it was about the children.”

Olson taught piano lessons to hundreds of children in the area for the past 60 years, spending much of that time as a member of the National Guild of Piano Teachers and as a judge for the National Guild of Students. One of her last students was her youngest grandchild.

“That was my daughter, Stephanie,” Stephen said. “She had planned on cutting back when she learned she had cancer. She was going to cut back to just Stephanie and one other girl … One of the last things she said was to find a good piano teacher for Stephanie and Abby.”

The family sees a backhanded blessing in the fact that the end came quickly for Olson.

“She wouldn’t have wanted a long, lingering illness,” Stephen said. “We’re grateful to the Mayo hospital, and to the UHD Hospice … Because of all the work she’d done for different weddings and funerals, I think we had eight different ministries visit her in the hospital.”

Music, faith and family were the three important things in Olson’s life.

“As it said in her obit, it was through those black and white keys that she touched thousands of lives,” Stephen said.