Jerry L. Olson

Jerry L. Olson, age 81 of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, died Wednesday, September 13, 2017, at his home, surrounded by his loving family.

A celebration of his life will take place 11 a.m. Wednesday, September 20, 2017, at the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish, South Dakota. Visitation will take place 5 to 7p.m. Tuesday, with a time of telling stories at 7 p.m., at Leverington Funeral Home of the Northern Hills in Belle Fourche, and one hour prior to the service. Interment will take place in Pine Slope Cemetery, Belle Fourche.

Jerry LaRue Olson was born November 22, 1935, in Sturgis, South Dakota. He was the son of LaRue and Rena (Dingeman) Olson. Jerry grew up in the Sturgis area where he graduated from high school in 1953. In high school, he was a talented football player and he was honored to receive a scholarship at Trinidad Jr. College in Colorado, where he attended one year. Jerry was united in marriage to Deloris Fern Thompson on October 29, 1954, in Whitewood, South Dakota. To this union was born a daughter and two sons: Vickie, Lonny and Jerry. Together Jerry and Fern enjoyed almost 63 years of marriage.

Jerry’s rodeo career began at a young age in 1947 when he entered his first rodeo, competing in bareback riding and tiedown roping. He found greater success in steer wrestling, making the National Finals Rodeo in 1969. It was entertaining the crowds at rodeos throughout the country, where Jerry made a name for himself. He and his father trained buffalo to perform in rodeo arenas. People from all over America enjoyed Jerry’s buffalo act for many years. His act involved the entire family, and eventually his son, Jerry Wayne, took it over. Jerry also worked as a rodeo clown for many years, all the while still competing in steer wrestling events. He even competed while still dressed in his full clown garb. In 1973 he returned to the NFR as a bullfighter. He is one of only three people to have been to the NFR as both a contestant and later a bullfighter. His honors include receiving the PRCA Contract Act of the Year in 1983; being inducted into the Casey Tibbs SD Rodeo Center in 1994; induction into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2001; and in 2004 he was inducted into the SD Hall of Fame. He was a member of the PRCA from 1954 to 1990, and served on the Board of Directors for two terms.

A great deal of Jerry’s life also involved ranching. In 1970 he and Fern purchased a ranch located seven miles east of Belle Fourche. In 2003 they sold it and moved into town where they have lived since. One of Jerry’s biggest qualities as a man was his physical strength. In 1986 he was in an ATV accident and he received a very serious brain stem injury. Even though the doctors felt he needed to be in a nursing home for several weeks, Jerry never spent a day in one. In fact he was riding his buffalo a few days later. Jerry said he never had a job he didn’t like. He was a great husband and father and a determined man. He was loved by his family and friends and he will be greatly missed.

Jerry is survived by his wife, Fern of Belle Fourche; daughter, Vickie A. (Troy) Tope of Hulett, Wyoming; sons, Jerry Wayne (Judy) Olson of Belle Fourche, Lonny G. (Sharon) Olson of Ponoka, Alberta, Canada; eight grandchildren; 12 great grandchildren; sister, Delores Pennebaker of Spearfish; nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; sisters, Mickey Sperle, Lorelia Fortner; and brother, Billy Olson.

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