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Leonard R. Olson
  • In lieu of flowers, Krueger Funeral Home is accepting memorial donations on behalf of the family.

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Memories & Candles

“I used to come up weekends to help Len with his wines at Tabor Hill in the early 1980s. We tried to find method to use his fine varietals so...Read More »
1 of 20 | Posted by: Douglas Temple - Albuquerque, NM

“I am deeply sorry and I oweMISTER LENARD OLSON MY LIFE!!!!!!THANK YOU SIR!!!!!!!!!!!!! ”
2 of 20 | Posted by: Jason WHITE - lake Charles, LA

“I met Len during his Tabor Hill days. He was gifted in many ways and always curious; but the trait I remember best was his sense of humor. He was...Read More »
3 of 20 | Posted by: Patrick W Fegan - Chicago, IL

“I was deeply sadden hearing of Lenny's passing.He was always a gentleman and a fun person to be around.My condolences to his family.I loved his laugh! ”
4 of 20 | Posted by: Karen Walker-Kehl - Lansing, IL

“I was greatly saddened to hear of Lenny's passing. He, and his kids, will be in my thoughts and prayers ”
5 of 20 | Posted by: Mike McNeal - LaBelle, FL

“I met Len when he lived in Kentcky. He and my sister, Kathy, started the In Town Winery. Len made the best wine I ever had, and he was always the...Read More »
6 of 20 | Posted by: Bonnie Stich - Louisville, KY

“Len certainly did have a love for life, laughter and wine. I had the privilege of working with him for a brief while at In Town Winery in Louisville...Read More »
7 of 20 | Posted by: Leisa Krish Ray - Louisville, KY

“Julie, Beth, Gunnar and, Ed. My family and, I express our heartfelt sympathy for your loss. Len was such a good, gracious man. He will sorely be...Read More »
8 of 20 | Posted by: Ron Robaska - Berrien Springs, MI

“My thoughts and prayers are with you all.❤❤❤ ”
9 of 20 | Posted by: Daniel J Murphy - Chicago, IL

“In the greatest mismatch in sport's history, I ended up across the line from Lenny in one of the annual Turkey Bowl games in Jackson Park. A cold,...Read More »
10 of 20 | Posted by: Ted - Indian Head Park, IL

“My thoughts and prayers are with you. I will never forget the great times at Tabor Hill Winery when we were kids. ”
11 of 20 | Posted by: Melissa A. Bolin - St. Loseph, MI

“Condolences, Julie, Beth, Eddie, Gunnar and family. A Great Man has passed. Our family is deeply saddened. May God bless. ”
12 of 20 | Posted by: Tony Covinton - French Valley, CA

“Condolences to Elizabeth, Julie and entire family. Saddened to hear of the passing of you Father. May fond memories of him and the love of family...Read More »
13 of 20 | Posted by: David Simmons - Palmetto, FL

“I am so very sad to hear of Len's passing. The last time we visited we shared a few laughs chatting about the aunts and uncles of the Denst family. I...Read More »
14 of 20 | Posted by: Karen S Brienzo

“He watching all this and shaking his head saying "Wow" ”
15 of 20 | Posted by: Debbie Donovan - IL

“My deepest sympathy in the passing of your father. I pray that God gives you strength during this time and that each loving memory you have of your...Read More »
16 of 20 | Posted by: Janice Croom-Ross - Niles, MI

“Tradition, Fiddler on the Roof and Len imbedded together in my memories. All good. Very sorry for your loss. ”
17 of 20 | Posted by: william lullo - gwinn, MI

“The Michigan wine industry lost one of our greats this week. Our thoughts and prayers are with Leonard's family. Len will most definitely live on in...Read More »
18 of 20 | Posted by: Dave Miller - Lawton, MI

“Thoughts are with the family of Lenny. I'm sad to hear of his passing and pray that all good memories will help during this sad time. He is with Peg...Read More »
19 of 20 | Posted by: Joan McWilliams Bollaert - Moline, IL

“We toast you, and say thank you, dear friend and colleague.May your legacy guide the pathway of Michigan wine! ”
20 of 20 | Posted by: Rick, Yuriko and Ayame Cooper - MI


The Southwest Michigan Wine Trail has lost a giant today with news of the untimely passing of Leonard Olson, 73, owner and operator of Baroda Founders Wine Cellar.

Olson died unexpectedly the evening of December 2, 2014. The rest of the industry, family and friends are in shock over the sudden loss of a man who earned the right to use the word Founder in his corporate name. Len was a Chicago native, born July 10, 1941 to Gunnar Olaf and Ruth Margret (Denst) Olson. He is survived by his daughters; Julie Olson and Elizabeth Olson of Chicago, sons; Gunnar (Liz) Olson of St. Joseph and Edward (Ruthie) Olson of Chicago, Illinois; three Grandchildren; Dylan & Kierston Olson of St. Joseph and Connor Olson of Chicago, Illinois, Brother Thomas Olson of Chicago, and girlfriend Maryanne Martin. He was preceded in death by his brother, Paul Olson and his parents.

Mass of Christian burial will be held 10 a.m. Monday, December 8, 2014 at St. Cajetan Church, 2445 West 112th Street, Chicago, IL with Father Frank officiating. Burial will be held at a later date. Friends are invited to visit with the family from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Saturday at Heritage Chapel, 8747 US 31, Berrien Springs. An additional wake will be taking place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday at Krueger Funeral Home, 13050 Greenwood Avenue, Blue Island, IL. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the Olson Family. Those wishing to share a memory of Leonard online may do so at www.heritage-chapel.com or www.kruegerfuneral.com.

Len lived life to the fullest at every turn, and was the center of the party always. He attended St. Brides Grammar School & Mt. Caramel High School and was recently inducted into their Ring of Fire Hall of Fame for his high school football career. He went on to the University of Illinois – Champaign on a football scholarship. He loved the white sox, fishing with friends, spending time in Zyhuatanejo, Mexico and most of all his grandchildren.

He was a self-educated winemaker who consulted with not only the most experienced, but the best winemakers in the world, including the late Karl Werner and Helmut Becker, two of Germany's most renowned winemakers.

Len himself enjoyed a long history in the wine industry. His experience in Michigan's Great Southwest dates back to the late 1960s when he and a partner planted the first commercial European vines (French Vinerfiria Grapes) in Michigan. They went on to plant 27 grape varieties, which included Aurora, Vidal Blanc, Baco Noir, Marechal Foch, DeChaunac, Chamborcin, Cascade, Chardonnay, Seyval, Vignoles and Johannesburg Riesling.

Mr. Olson obtained the first new Michigan winery license since prohibition and opened Tabor Hill in 1972. As winemaker at Tabor Hill, the winery won several awards and medals and was served in the White House under Gerald Ford's presidency. Len left Tabor Hill in 1982 and pursued other opportunities in the beverage industry, including beer-making in northern Indiana and winemaking in Kentucky, where he was recognized as one of the founding members of the Kentucky Grape & Wine Council.

Several years ago, Len returned to his roots in Michigan's Great Southwest and launched his popular Baroda Founders Wine Cellar in downtown Baroda. He later added a Baroda Founders Tasting Room on State Street in downtown St. Joseph.

Len was proud to post his philosophy in his business place stating, "The Baroda Founders Family feels we are fortunate to make a product that our customers enjoy at their most precious moments. To that end, we strive to produce wines that reflect the best of the grapes harvested in each God-given growing season. The pleasure of wine and your satisfaction at our winery or in your home gives meaning to our life. Drink in Health."

Len was a true Wine Master, and fortunately over the past several years he has imparted a great deal of the knowledge to his son, Gunnar, who joined the business after owning and operating The Establishment in Benton Harbor for a number of years.

Len's skills among the vines are legendary, and as a major fine wine founder in both Michigan and Kentucky, his passing will leave a substantial void in the marketplace.

He always treated everyone with great respect while exhibiting a major aura of pride for the wines he produced and the work his family accomplished. He was the consummate marketer, always working to share the good news of not only his own products and property but the entire industry and the Wine Trail.

Clearly his skills achieved lofty levels as his myriad medals, awards and honors profoundly display.

Godspeed, Len Olson...and to Julie, Beth, Gunnar and Ed...our thoughts and prayers come your way.

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