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John D. Olsrud 1941-2019 Friday, November 1, 2019


John D. Olsrud, 77, Bismarck, passed away Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at Sanford Health in Bismarck. Funeral Services will be held at 11:00 AM, Friday, November 15, 2019, at Trinity Lutheran Church with Pastor Lee Herberg officiating. Visitation is one hour prior to the service at the church. Burial will be in North Dakota Veterans Cemetery.

John was born November 5, 1941 at Sidney, MT, to Rev. Oscar and Marguerite (Martinson) Olsrud. The family moved to Beach, ND, in 1943, and John graduated from Beach High School in 1959. He finished college in three years, receiving his Bachelor Degree in public administration with honors in 1962 from the University of North Dakota. During the Vietnam War era, John was a medic in the United States Army Reserves.

John was a claims authorizer with the Social Security Administration in Kansas City, MO, during which time he took several classes at the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law. He then transferred to the University of North Dakota School of Law, from which he graduated in 1967. He was admitted to practice law in state and federal courts. He was one of the first law clerks for the North Dakota Supreme Court and he was then hired as an attorney for the Legislative Research Committee, later renamed the Legislative Council. He was counsel to the tax committees and wrote the laws creating the coal severance tax. After being promoted to code revisor and then assistant director, John was appointed director of the North Dakota Legislative Council in 1982. He served in that position for 25 years before retiring in 2007.

While at the Legislative Council, John served on the Executive Committee and as staff vice chairman of the Legislative Management Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures. He also served on the Governing Board and was chairman of the directors’ organization of the Midwestern Legislative Conference and he was active on the Suggested State Legislation Committee of the Council of State Governments. He was appointed a commissioner representing North Dakota for the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. While director of the Legislative Council one of John’s proudest achievements was changing the way laws were written in North Dakota from what he called the “King James” version of lawyerlike awkward language to simple, modern English. With the support of his legal staff he got the guidelines for drafting bills changed and he encouraged everyone to accept the new way of writing laws. One of his professional goals was to stabilize the professional staff of the Legislative Council where turnover had long been a problem, and when he retired, the most junior member of the nine person legal staff had been there for eleven years.

John served as chairman of the North Dakota Commission on Continuing Legal Education and drafted the first rules on continuing legal education that were adopted by the North Dakota Supreme Court. He served as an advisor to an explorer chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, and he held several offices in the local and the district levels of Toastmasters International.

John was especially interested in legislative ethics. He taught ethics to legislators and staff and he served on the faculties for several seminars on ethics. In retirement, he taught ethics for five years at Bismarck State College, where he also taught political science and business law.

Retirement gave John time to devote to his community. He served for several years on the board of the West Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross and he was chairman for two years. He was chairman of the local chapter of SCORE, and he counseled several people who started new businesses. He served as an officer in the Sverdrup Lodge of Sons of Norway and volunteered for several years for the Open Your Heart campaign of the American Legion. He was a member of the Bismarck Lions Club and the Elks.

John never forgot his roots as a small town preacher’s kid. He was a charter member of Lord of Life Lutheran Church and the second president of the congregation. As a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, he conceived the idea and chaired the committee that created a scholarship at a Lutheran seminary to honor a former pastor. He served on other church councils and committees as well as taught Sunday school.

John Married Linda Hendriz, on April 4, 1994, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Together they had six children. His extended family was central to John’s life. John and Linda traveled extensively, especially to the Caribbean and several trips to Europe, especially where John’s ancestors came from, Norway and Scotland. John was especially proud of a gift of a trip to Norway he gave his parents at the time he was starting his career.

He is survived by his wife, Linda; four daughters, Sarah (Matthew) Coene, Lynne (Brian) Carlson, Maria (Ryan Kappel) Olsrud, and Carrie (Ian) Daly; two sons, Joe Miller and Wilson Olsrud; three sisters, Rhoda Mackenzie, Marilyn (Curtis) Bah, and Lois Olsrud; eleven grandchildren, Thomas, Jordan (Sharlene), Melinda (Cody), Austin, Yosemite, Casey, Miguel, Tyrone, Miriam, James, and Eoin; and two great-grandchildren Luna and Max.

John was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Harold and David

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations go to the UND Foundation or Central Dakota Humane Society.

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