Obituary: Marcia Nygaard Olney

Great-great grandmother, teacher, entrepreneur, activist, devoted friend to many

In the presence of her family and while singing songs, Marcia Nygaard Olney died peacefully October 3, in Fargo, North Dakota at 78 years of age.

Marcia was born November 2, 1939, in Flaxton, North Dakota to Norman and Meredith Nygaard. She was the first granddaughter of both the Urton and Nygaard families, and the eldest of four siblings.

She fulfilled her parents’ dream for their children to have adventure and higher education, earning her master’s degree in education from Arizona State University. Not only was Ms. Olney a member of the high IQ society Mensa International, she was also a championship archer at ASU, qualifying as a finalist for the 1956 Stockholm Olympic trials.

Ms. Olney was the president of the local Claremont, California chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and was a leader in a pivotal teacher’s strike at Claremont High School.

She was a founder of the free, private school, The School of Claremont, and was a high school teacher for 15 years. She was accomplished in many areas as a leader and activist in education, business and was a member of the American Massage Therapists Association, holding certification in several states.

Before becoming a regional economic director in North Dakota, she created the Lunch Box Café and Rise and Shine Bakery in Flaxton. She also founded three health and wellness  centers in Arizona, including the Fountain of Youth Health Spa. She was also a partner and co-owner of Rex Ranch Resort and Meeting Center in Amado, Arizona.

She started life as the daughter of farmers, and later became the proud wife of a farmer, when she married Clair Lee Olney on November 23, 1974. She lived in North Dakota, Arizona and California, and owned a beloved cabin in Mt. Baldy. She and Mr. Olney lived on the Olney and Nygaard Farms in Burke County, North Dakota, as well as multiple warm climate locations in the Southwestern US during the winters. She was a mother and grandmother to many, and with the passing of the preceding generation, embraced the role of matriarch of the Urton and Nygaard families.

Ms. Olney moved to Valley City, North Dakota in the fall of 2014, to be closer to her family and to keep a close eye on the Valley City Vikings baseball team.

She was deeply devoted and available to her friends, connecting with dynamic, talented and life changing people, including, but not limited to cat lovers, poets, authors, educators, activists, musicians, spiritualists, healers and people from around the world, her family shared, adding that her glad and open get-together energy meant she formed bonds that lasted from childhood through her lifetime.

“Marcia represents open minded potentiality, generosity of spirit and doing for everybody,” they said. “But perhaps the part of Marcia we will miss most is the sound of her voice filling the room with song in perfect tone.”

Her husband Clair preceded her in death on January 28, 2001.

She is survived by her children, Casey (Kari) Olney, Larry (Judy) Olney, Joyce Olney and Brenda (Tom Pence) Olney; twelve grandchildren; many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; and her three siblings, Leland, Connie Ann (John), and Patricia (Wayne).

A family time of remembrance was held recently. There will be a celebration of life in summer 2019 in Flaxton, North Dakota. Friends and family may view and add to Ms. Olney’s online guestbook at


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