Former Fort Dodge City Councilman Curt Olson, who spent countless hours volunteering to support causes as diverse as the Frontier Days celebration and the local Humane Society, died Tuesday morning. He was 56.
He died at his home at 351 Ave. F, according to his son, Curtis A. Olson. He said an autopsy will be conducted. Bruce-Graham Funeral Home & Cremation Center, 923 First Ave. S., is in charge of arrangements.
''I think Fort Dodge just lost an amazing person,'' Mayor Matt Bemrich said.
Former Fort Dodge City Councilman Curt Olson stops to chat with World War II veteran Mae Eide before the departure of the Sept. 25, 2010, Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Olson died early Tuesday morning at his Fort Dodge home. Olson was active with the group that sent veterans to tour the World War II Memorial and other sites in D.C.
''I always found that Curt worried more about others than he ever did about himself,'' Bemrich added. ''He was always a giving person of his time, of his efforts.''
Bemrich said he and Olson were friends for 20 years. He added that Olson got him started in city government by appointing him to the Charter Review Commission in 2004.
Olson was elected to the City Council in 2003 to represent Ward 1, which includes western and northwestern Fort Dodge and part of downtown. He went on to serve four terms before being defeated by Councilman Mark Taylor last year.
As a councilman, Olson supported the Envision 2030 master plan for the community. He also backed the Fifth Avenue South Corridor of Commerce improvements and the proposed crosstown connector downtown street realignment.
Olson successfully pushed for a city law limiting the use of engine brakes on big trucks in a bid to spare residents from the noise of those devices.
To serve his ward, Olson championed the recently completed reconstruction of G Street and a plan to rebuild the Avenue C hill.
But his service to the community extended well beyond any council actions he took, according to those who knew him.
''I've never known anybody on the council that worked with so many service groups and did so many things behind the scenes as Curt did,'' said Councilman Don Wilson.
The Humane Society of North Central Iowa was one of the organizations that Olson served for years.
''Curt was a wonderful guy,'' said Laurie Hagey, the former executive director of the society. ''He worked so hard for the shelter.''
Olson started as a volunteer at the animal shelter and was eventually placed on the society's board of directors, according to Esther Tuvell, a Fort Dodge woman who is a longtime member of the organization.
The animal shelter was once in a flood-prone building in the 2300 block of Fifth Avenue South. Tuvell recalled that whenever it rained, Olson was the first person who went there to check out the conditions. He was also the person who brought sandbags to the site when flooding was a threat, she added.
''He was Mr. Fix It,'' said Dr. Mike Bottorf, a member of the Humane Society's board of directors. ''He really did a lot when we were in that old building and he was instrumental in getting the new one up and running.''
Olson, a Marine Corps veteran, served as a guardian on all five Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight trips that took local World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. in 2010 and 2011.
''That man was invaluable to the Honor Flight,'' said Ron Newsum, the president of the committee that organized the flights.
He described Olson as a ''gentle giant'' who helped the elderly veterans get in and out of airplanes and buses during the trips.
Charlie Walker, a member of the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight Committee, recalled the technique Olson employed to help the veterans move about.
''He'd stand in front of them and say 'I'm going to give you a big bear hug and you give me one back,''' Walker said. ''Then he'd just grab onto those guys and pick them up. He was the best help we had.''
Walker said Olson learned within the last week that one of the veterans lost the red cap that all the former service members who traveled on the Honor Flight received. He said Olson picked up a spare cap from him and delivered it to the veteran.
Olson was a member of the Fort Dodge Dragoons, the organization that promotes the frontier history of the community.
''Curt was very definitely an asset to the fort and Frontier Days,'' said John Edens, who is the head of the organization's Quartermaster Corps.
He said Olson was a member of the Quartermaster Corps, which helps take care of the property at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village on Kenyon Road.
The former councilman also volunteered with Shellabration Inc., the group that puts on major concerts in Fort Dodge.
''The two words that describe Curt Olson are enthusiastic and passionate,'' said Jim Reed, the president of Shellabration. ''There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for someone in need.''
He credited Olson with promoting concerts, setting up the stage and even ''wearing lederhosen in the call of duty for Oktoberfest.''
Olson attended Fort Dodge Senior High School, and then enlisted in the Marine Corps. He served from 1974 to 1977, and at one point was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Hancock.
He was the past commandant of the Mid-Iowa Detachment of the Marine Corps League and was the group's vice commandant at the time of his death.
He was employed by Georgia-Pacific Corp. in Fort Dodge.