Magnus Olafson, or “Mike” as the locals call him, received the Knight’s Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon.
He is one of the most knowledgeable historians of the Icelandic pioneers in North Dakota and will be the Grand Marshal of the 111th Annual Deuce of August Parade on Saturday, July 31, 2010 in Mountain, North Dakota.
Magnus’s life started with a crisis. On October 23, 1920, Dr. Olafur Bjornson rushed down from Winnipeg with the hopes of saving a baby and mother.
Both mother and baby boy survived. In gratitude, the parents, John and Kirstín (Hermansdóttir) Olafson named their baby son, Marino Magnus Olafson. Dr. Bjornson, the hero of the day, is the grandfather of Christina Sunley, the author of The Tricking of Freya. Old connections will be renewed when Christina meets Magnus during the Deuce where she is signing books and giving a book reading.
Magnus’s grandparents and mother emigrated from Iceland. His father was born on the train near Coburg, ON in 1873 when the family was travelling from Quebec to Milwaukee. The Olafsson family later left Minneota to move to Gardar in 1880.
Magnus married Lois Patricia Flanagan October 30, 1945 in Gardar. They have two sons, Larry and Robert, and a daughter, Jean. They have four grandchildren and three great– grandchildren. Lois died November 2, 1984 just three days after her and Magnus’s 39th Wedding Anniversary.
Magnus has been to Iceland ten times “so far” and he has enjoyed each trip immensely. The year he received the Knight’s Cross was his most exciting trip. President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson presented the medal to him in an official ceremony on November 28, 1999. The award honoured Magnus for his efforts to preserve the history and culture of Iceland in America.
Meeting visitors from Iceland and giving them area tours is still one of his favorite activities. Magnus says, “I suppose that I have met almost every tour bus in the past 25 years.” The Icelandic tourists all love to meet “Sir Magnus” and are surprised that he is so down-to-earth and that he can speak fluent Icelandic.
In 1963, G.B. Gunlogson (b.1887-d.1983) donated 200 acres of family land to the state of North Dakota and it was incorporated in 1980 as ND’s first dedicated state nature preserve.
Magnus and other board members have been meeting every Thursday for over 20 years to accomplish the goals and vision of G.B. Gunlogson to preserve the culture and heritage of the pioneer settlers. They laid out the site and buildings for the park while preserving the plant life, the sheepherder’s digs, and the homestead buildings.
Magnus farmed 1943-1960 and worked in a parts department 1960-1970. From 1970-1989, he worked as the office manager for J.G. Hall and Sons of the Edinburg/Gardar area. For many years, Magnus served on the church council, was the Gardar school clerk for twelve years, and the Edinburg School Board president for eight years.
Magnus is a long-standing member of the Icelandic Communities Association and he wrote the booklet, “Solving the Mystery of the 2nd of August.” He has assisted with several Iceland television documentaries including a film on Chester Thordarson, the electronics genius, and the History of Icelanders in North Dakota by Plus Films.
He is involved in fostering many relationships with our friends in Canada and in Iceland. North Dakota is proud to have “Sir Magnus” as part of our community. His knowledge of our Icelandic ancestors and the immigrants to our region is phenomenal.
Come to the annual Icelandic Celebration and meet the parade Grand Marshal, Sir Magnus Olafson. The schedule is on our website: http://www.august2nd.com/ or find us on Facebook: “August the Deuce.”