Vernon Roy “Chubby” Olson

May 12, 1933-March 6, 2022

Vernon Roy “Chubby” Olson passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, March 6, 14 days after being diagnosed with cancer. He was born at Nook fish camp east of Nome to John Helmer Olson, who was from rural Sweden, and Elizabeth Marie Kakkåanga (Frantzen), who was from Little Diomede and the old village site of Wales, Alaska.

He grew up in Nome and Nook. He learned the subsistence way of life from his mother and cousins, and how to build, fix and hammer (not necessarily with a hammer) into place just about anything from his father.

In high school he played basketball, organized and acted in plays, was co-editor of the yearbook and the student newspaper, student body vice president, Valedictorian and was known as the town banker.

Vern was also a Civil Air Patrol cadet and had the high honor of being selected to attend a Congressional dinner with President Truman in Washington, D.C. At that time, only one CAP cadet was chosen from each state and territory to attend the dinner. He met the President as well as Delegate E.L. Bartlett.

During his youth, Vern was also a culinary worker, lighterage longshoreman, taxicab dispatcher and driver, truck driver, narrow gauge railroad engineer and gandy dancer, cannery worker, professional clam digger, and laborer and roughnecker on oil rigs.

After high school, Vern won a scholarship from Sears and a scholarship from the Territory of Alaska and headed to University of Alaska Fairbanks to study civil engineering. He then joined the Army in 1955 and did his basic infantry training at Fort Richardson. He was posted to Whittier as a supply clerk, to Seward as a documentation specialist, and then transferred to Anchorage as an administrative specialist. After his honorable discharge, Vern attended the UA Anchorage and studied business. These studies began a long career in business administration, from working as a district administrator for the National Cash Register Company; Vice President, Executive Vice president, and President of Bering Straits Development Corporation; owning his own property management consultancy; Vice President (daily operations and later, shareholder development) of Bering Straits Native Corporation; Executive Vice President of Bering Straits Trading Company (which included a 1990 visit to the Russian Far East); President and Chairman of the Board of Stampede Ventures; Vice President of Bering Straits Foundation; and President of Bering Straits Environmental Systems and Construction. He served on the Bering Straits Native Corporation Board of Directors from 1978-1981 and 1984-1990.

He was briefly president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and limited his involvement in the initial organization of Native land claims due to the heavy politics of Alaska’s indigenous people, who have tens of thousands of years of practice at geopolitical disagreements. He served on Governor Cowper’s Alaska Land Use Council and was also a member of the Nome Eskimo Community, Pioneers of Alaska, Veteran of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and, later in life, the ACLU. 

All these experiences gave him plenty of material for his wonderful stories, from wrecking the train, to deworming the dogs, to chipping paint in Whittier after greeting his commanding officer with “Well, look who showed up!”

He enjoyed the beaches at Hawaii and Cabo San Lucas, building the cabin at Bonnie Lake, fishing, hunting, bowling, darts, berry picking trips, visiting with family and friends, and Grand Marnier.

He was preceded in death by his wife Joan McNamara Olson, parents John and Elizabeth, his brothers Antony (Tony), Helmer, and Lawrence (Larry), and his sisters Madeline and Sylvia.

 He is survived by his brother Melvin and wife Velma; daughter Lisa and family (husband Jerry Alderman; grandson Connor and daughter-in-law Blanca Montague, great grandson Isaac, and great granddaughter Elise; and granddaughter Linden Montague); daughter Sonja Sorem and family (husband Sam, grandson Gunnar and wife Andrea, grandson Parker, and granddaughter Jessie); and many loving nephews and nieces and their families, who loved Uncle Chubby very much. He also leaves behind special friends Smokey and Kim Simonka, Bonnie Lake neighbors, and many family, friends, and co-workers in Nome.

The family would like to give special thanks to Megan Doull at Encompass Health hospice services. We could not have honored his wishes without her incredible kindness and compassion.

Viewing and remembrance service was planned for Monday, March 14, 1-4 p.m. at Witzleben Legacy Funeral Home, Anchorage.



The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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