Ronda Graff

Community Connections

News and views from the McCook Community Foundation Fund


A life lived with passion; an example to follow

Thursday, May 20, 2021
Tor and Holly Olson, center, with fellow mountain bicycle enthusiasts Ronda and Jon Graff, left, and Candy Crosby, right.
Courtesy photo

This past week, McCook lost yet another member of the community who was passionate about his hometown, who was a tremendous supporter of the arts and music, who was constantly coming up with ideas that stemmed from his interests and hobbies.

After putting up a good fight for the past nine months, Tor Olson passed away earlier this week at his home in McCook. With him went a lot of plans, tremendous passion, and expertise in everything from photography to computers, from biking to beer, just to name a few.

But what he left behind is even more important. Tor left behind a model of how to make his community a better place to call home - both for himself and for others.

Tor was always coming up with ideas, of doing things you are passionate about, of making things happen even if it’s not going to be easy.

For example, Tor was instrumental in getting the walking trail system going in McCook, which is used by thousands every year. He garnered support from a variety of different areas and helped make it happen. Now the entire community is a beneficiary of that work. And with the backing of Community Hospital and the city of McCook, hopefully, those walking trails will be expanded even more over the next year or two.

When Tor got excited about a project, he went full in.

Early last spring, Tor had the idea to expand the walking/hiking/biking trails at Red Willow State Recreation Area, north of McCook. Working with our area’s Nebraska Games and Parks superintendent Aric Riggins, Tor mapped, designed and plotted new trails to make the system in place even better.

Yes, he was doing it because he wanted more bike trails close by, but he also wanted others to enjoy the area as much as he did. He wanted visitors and residents alike to understand what the area had to offer.

Then Covid hit and the world shut down, but not for Tor. He saw it as an opportunity to get things done while we could, with regular texts asking to meet him at the lake to work on the trails. So with weekends and weeknights suddenly open, Tor and his wife, Holly, and a core group of volunteers took to the trails, digging and chopping and mowing additional trails.

While it is unfortunate that Tor wasn’t able to see the trails reach completion, his passion will live on as the trails are connected on both sides of the dam, new signs marking the trails will be installed this upcoming year, and a bike loan program will be put in place at the campground.

All because Tor had an idea.

We will remember Tor for his beautiful photographs, his love of music, his unmatched enthusiasm for craft beers, which he was always willing to share. But the one thing I will take from Tor’s passing is that we need to get out there and do the things which are important to us, to do the things that will bring joy to our friends and family, to do the things which will make our community even better. Because we are not promised tomorrow and you never know when it will be the “last time” you can do something.

On my phone is a video of Tor almost taken exactly one year ago at Potter’s Pasture near Brady, Nebraska. As he maneuvers a deep ravine on his mountain bike, he approaches a rickety bridge with broken boards. At the last second, he says “no big deal,” swerves around the boards onto another path and casually coasts to the bottom of the hill.

The video is bittersweet to watch.

It shows him doing what he loves, both riding his bikes to just being with friends and family. But it was also the last time we went to Potter’s…we just didn’t know it at the time.

Most of the time, we don’t know when it will be the last time: the last time you will see someone you love, the last time you will talk to a friend, the last time you will be able to something to make the world a better place than you found it.

As Tor’s wife Holly has rummaged through paperwork in recent weeks, she has come across many of his projects from over the years, many of them accomplished. Others were not implemented, yet they are still viable such as downtown Christmas lights on all the buildings to additional bicycle racks throughout the community.

We have the opportunity to accomplish some of those unfinished projects which Tor had conceived. And we also have the opportunity to get out there and do things that bring us joy, which will benefit not just ourselves but also our fellow community members, which will make our community an even better place to call home. Because there is no perfect time; there is only now

View 1 comment
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • Great tribute to Tor, Ronda

    -- Posted by hbieker on Sun, May 23, 2021, at 3:29 PM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: