Sonja Olshove, NMC, deaths, obituaries
Sonja Olshove | NMC Photo
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When you live on an 18-mile peninsula, you consider everyone your neighbor, even if you don’t know them personally. This past weekend, we lost two members of our Old Mission Peninsula community – Township Supervisor Pete Correia, who passed after a long battle with cancer, and NMC instructor Sonja Olshove. Both deaths sparked a ripple of grief throughout the Peninsula.

Sonja, 49, was found dead on the shoreline in the 9000 block of Center Road. In our household, anyone living on that stretch of road lives “near Mrs. Arney’s house,” even though it’s been years since Mrs. Arney, our beloved librarian at Old Mission Peninsula School during the 1960s and 70s, lived there.

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A nearby resident discovered Sonja’s body face down on the beach. I saw his Facebook post on Sunday morning, but the post was deleted at some point. He said that he turned her over and attempted chest compressions to try and revive her, but knew it was too late at that point. It’s heartbreaking to imagine this situation.

A preliminary autopsy in Kalamazoo (this is something that’s not available in Traverse City) has determined that no foul play was involved, but a more in-depth autopsy is underway.

Sonja – whose dad, Roy Terdal, was a longtime instructor at NMC – taught psychology and sociology at the college. She was a two-time recipient of the college’s Imogene Wise Faculty Excellence Award in 2001 and 2013 – only the second instructor in NMC history to win this award twice. The award is chosen by a student selection committee to honor “teaching excellence, rapport with students, innovation in the classroom and a sense of dedication.”

Based on the outpouring of love and support for Sonja, it’s clear she was beloved by everyone who knew her. I only wish I’d had the chance to know her.

In a letter to the NMC community, NMC President Tim Nelson said the news of her death is “deeply saddening” to everyone at the college. “Her passion for education has left a lasting mark on countless students as well as her colleagues and friends,” he wrote. “Our hearts are with Sonja’s family as if it were our own.”

He also included a quote from Sonja’s 2014 NMC Commencement speech as the 2013 Imogene Wise Faculty Excellence Award recipient:

“The great honor is not receiving the medal, it is in touching a life, a person in a way that someone took the time to sit down and write a nomination. My greatest wish for you is that you bring your compassion and your desire to help the world to your career, and that you don’t let the world inhibit your spirit. When you believe that people are good, they are. When you believe that you can make a difference, you can. When you care, you change a life. With every kind act, there is a ripple effect.”

Sonja’s ripple effect is felt in our Old Mission Peninsula community. Our hearts are with her family, as well as the family of Pete Correia (read more about his life here).

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

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  1. My heart is heavy for the families of Sonja Olshove– her school family and the Olshove & Terdal families. I cannot imagine the level of their grief.


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