Fertile-Beltrami community celebrates birthday of teen who died in ATV accident

It was an emotional night on the football field in Polk County. There was no game. Instead students, friends and family gathered to celebrate the birthday of Jude Olson, who died in a tragic ATV accident.

Fertile-Beltrami community celebrates birthday of teen who died in ATV accident
Jude Olson's mother, Jill Olson, is comforted by friend of the family Stacy Stuhaug during a memorial on Friday, Sept. 25. The memorial coincided with what would have been Jude Olson's birthday. Matt Henson / WDAY

FERTILE, Minn. — More than 100 people of all ages took Fertile-Beltrami High School's football field Friday, Sept. 25, for the 17th birthday celebration for Jude Olson. While the birthday boy was not there in person, the large turnout showed he was there in spirit.

"Thanks is not enough, but that's all I got right now is a big thank you," said Jude Olson's mother, Jill Olson.

"I just wonder how much cake he had with Jesus today," said family friend Stacy Stuhaug.

Jude Olson died in July when the throttle on his ATV got stuck. He slammed into a tree just a mile from his home. He was on his way to hangout with his best friend.

"We went back to town and make burgers and we were going to go swimming, but I never got to see him again," said Levi Qualley, Jude's bestfriend.


At 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 240 pounds, the gentle giant easily stuck out in his small town, not because of his physical size, but by the size of his heart.

"As a wrestling coach, these kids are like your own boys," said Jude Olson's wrestling coach, Chad Hitchen. "We are going to miss him. You don't replace that."

Jude was even a big teddy bear on the gridiron and on the wrestling mat.

"Jude would just come up and hug you and be like you will get him next time. He was a pick me up," said friend and teammate, Seth Lavalier.

Wrestling has been Olson's passion since he was a little boy. His goal going into high school was to make the state tournament his senior year. Jude did that as a sophomore this year.

Even though he is gone, Jude's love and compassion is being felt in communities far away from Fertile. He became an organ donor at age 15.


"He said 'what am I going to do with my parts before I am gone, I want to help someone else,' so he lives on," Olson said. "Knowing his friends are still thinking of him, and he's not forgotten, he still lives on in our hearts everyday."

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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