The following Heroes
have been honored with gifts totaling $2,000 or more:
Herman and Beatrice Olson (2016)
Retiring to Stevens Point in 1967 launched a whole new life chapter for Beatrice (Bea, 1909-1979) and Herman (1910-2004) Olson, in which they transformed a 280-acre neglected dairy farm to a diverse, productive natural area they called Steinhaugen.
The Olsons are remembered as conservation heroes not only because of their longtime stewardship of the Steinhaugen property, but in part because of their willingness to share the Steinhaugen property with friends, neighbors, and community groups while enthusiastically espousing its many unique natural features.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Herman worked mostly as a regional wildlife biologist staff officer in Milwaukee with the U.S. Forest Service. He is credited with the reintroduction of the fisher into Wisconsin to provide natural control of the porcupine population. In 1958 he was honored with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Superior Service Award for his outstanding work in the field of game management and promotion of cooperative programs.
Bea, who discovered the Steinhaugen property during a visit while Herman attended a wildlife conference at UWSP, enjoyed searching the woods for unusual plants and for many years she recorded and sent the date of first blooming of lilacs to the Wisconsin Phenology Society. Herman built over 1,200 bluebird houses and his design became widely used by the Wisconsin Bluebird Restoration Association.
The Olsons were recognized and honored by numerous organizations for their conservation work over the years. They consistently supported UWSP's College of Natural Resources by allowing Steinhaugen to be utilized as an outdoor laboratory for education and research, including timber measurements, soils, forest protection, hydrology, and surveying. In 2015, Herman and Bea's sons transferred 270 acres of the Steinhaugen land to Portage County to serve as a natural area featuring its diversity and encouraging the public to enjoy it through "silent" recreation, thus allowing the values that Bea and Herman exemplified during their lives to be shared with future generations.
Jeanette and George
Jeanette (1929-2014) and George
(1928-2013) were longtime Stevens Point residents who are remembered for their
devotion to family and community, their quiet but firm commitment to the values
of fairness, faith, ethics, teaching and learning, and preserving and
protecting the natural environment that sustains us all.
George, a longtime writer, editor,
author and civic leader was for decades one of the region’s premiere
conservation advocates. He worked for 40
years at Stevens Point Journal as a reporter, managing editor, editor
and publisher before retiring in 1988.
He continued to write an outdoors column – one of his true passions –
for the Journal until 1997, then co-founded the weekly Portage County
Gazette (1999), where he served as a contributing writer and outdoors
columnist until his passing. One
colleague called him “the finest journalist I’ve ever met…..a smart, fair, and
a gifted writer…..loved this community but wasn’t afraid to show its warts.” Another
said he “could have been a journalist anywhere in the world, but he worked in
Stevens Point, where he treasured nature and natural resources.”
Jeanette shared George’s passion for
nature, scenic beauty and the environment.
She worked in banking as a young woman, then later co-owned a gift shop
in Stevens Point during the 1980s. Volunteering
was very important to Jeanette. She was the Riverfront Arts Center's first
volunteer and served on its board. She also gave her time to Operation
Bootstrap, St. Michael's Hospital, Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) and St.
Stanislaus Parish Bingo.
Lowell Klessig (2015)
Growing up on a farm instilled a
strong conservation work ethic, which lasted Lowell Klessig’s entire life. After graduating from Chilton High School, he
earned his bachelor, master’s and doctorate degrees from UW-Madison, and a
master’s from Vanderbilt University.
Early in his career, he served as deputy director of the Sigurd Olson
institute at Northland College in Ashland, WI, and it was during this time that
he purchased the “Un-Hilton,” a storied 50-acre farmstead with an original 1910
Lowell’s doctoral dissertation
served as the foundation for Wisconsin’s Inland Lake Management law. The first
of its kind in the country, it served as a model for other lake protection
programs. Thus began Lowell's 20-plus
year career with the UW-Extension as a Lake District Specialist. He crisscrossed the state to help lake
property owners and county boards develop stewardship plans and lake districts.
A UWEX branch was established in
Stevens Point, marking the beginning of Lowell’s richly rewarding relationship
with the College of Natural Resources (CNR) at UWSP. His teaching career expanded to traditional
college courses, in addition to outreach education. Dr. Klessig promoted sound, scientific and
citizen-based resource management strategies. He received the 25-Year Service Award from the
United States Department of Agriculture, the Lifetime Achievement Award from
the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, as well as Visionary Leadership Award from the
Wisconsin Chapter of Extension Service Professionals, and the Wisconsin Idea
A prolific writer during his
professional career and after his retirement from UWSP in 2001, Dr. Klessig
authored numerous teaching manuals, and collaborated on the publication of
several books, including “One Family's Forest” (2010) which he co-authored with
former CNR dean Dr. Alan Haney.
Lowell was lovingly referred to by
his wife as the “philosophical farmer.”
Travel was a lifelong passion for him, having visited 56 countries
during his lifetime. He was an avid
outdoorsman, enjoying deer hunting, fishing, and ice-fishing. He participated in many rugged outdoor
adventure trips, and hunting and fishing trips abroad.