Frederick Olaf Olsson of Hastings passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at age 100.
Fred was born on Aug. 18, 1920 on a farm in East Hampton, Conn., the sixth of seven children. His parents were from the Aland islands, an archipelago off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea. His family moved to Jamaica, Queens, where Fred grew up and graduated from John Adams High School. His father was in construction, and worked on the George Washington Bridge. His parents boarded Swedish and Finnish builders who worked on the bridges and tunnels of New York City.
While in school he was in the Glee Club and several musicals. After high school, he worked in construction on the Pitkin Avenue subway, building barracks at Camp Edward, Mass., and the McKinley Field air base in Bermuda, where he often sang for his supper in the hotels.
In 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, soon switching to the Army Air Force. He became a lieutenant and pilot of a B-24 Liberator, and flew 30 bombing missions over Germany with the Eighth Army Air Force, 389th Bombardment Group, a strategic bomb group that flew from Hethel, England. He earned the distinguished flying cross, and was in the actor Jimmy Stewart's squadron.
His barbershop quartet, The Skyliners, won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout contest and they sang on the radio. He was introduced to a scout of Paramount Pictures, and was offered a screen test, but chose not to pursue the route to Hollywood. He was in the chorus of two Broadway musicals — "Arms and the Girl” and “Music In the Air.” During this time, he was a foreman on the construction of the foundation of the U.N. Secretariat building.
In 1952, he married Muriel Jean Myers of Huntington Station, Long Island. After marrying, they went to Rome for six months, where he studied voice and opera. After returning, they moved to New York City, where he attended Juilliard School of Music. They had two daughters, Beth and Lisa, and in 1962 moved to Hastings.
Fred built scenery, took shows on the road, and became a member of the stagehand's union, Local 1, while studying engineering at Columbia University. He was hired by the Shubert Organization as head carpenter of the Broadway Theater. He became facilities director of the Shubert Organization, which owned and operated 16 Broadway theaters in New York City and others throughout the U.S. This lifelong job, which he kept until the age of 92, involved restoring and maintaining the historic landmark Broadway theaters, rebuilding and outfitting them for shows.
Fred was an active member of the First Reformed Church in Hastings. In addition to being a member of consistory and a tenor in the choir, he installed the current bell and lighted cross.
Fred is survived by Muriel, his devoted wife of 68 years; his daughters, Beth Rudd (domestic partner Michael Willson) and Lisa Olsson (husband Robert Plotkin); his sister Lillian Ludwig; and grandchildren Jamie, David (spouse Valerie), Michael, and Caroline Rudd, Ian Lopez (domestic partner Candice Velez), and Emily Plotkin; and great-grandchild Eve Rudd.