Fred W. Olsen Jr. of Coopersburg passed away peacefully in his home on December 18, 2021, surrounded by family while James Brown and Janis Joplin played him into the afterlife. Unfortunately, technology did not move fast enough to fulfill his lifelong wish to put his brain inside a robot and live forever. After surviving numerous car crashes in his youth, a massive heart attack at 42, gas explosions, a tree falling on him, being run over by a runaway car, a quadruple bypass, falling into a pit of snakes, numerous accidents involving nail guns, electricity, and other tools, a horrific accident between a horse and a minivan, and finally Covid-19, his body decided that 87 was the magic number to depart.
Fred was born in New York, NY on March 29, 1934, the son of the very tall and stoic Norwegian immigrant Fred Sr. and the very short and feisty Italian redhead Josephine. He grew up in New York with his parents and younger sister Lois. He favored his father intellectually and his mother in most other ways. He was a genius who skipped two grades; as a 12-year-old high school student, his youth and short stature made him a fighter and a bit of a rabble-rouser. He married his girlfriend Mary and had one son while serving in the Army. His years in the military produced tales of accidental paratrooper school and drunken nights with German soldiers while serving overseas. Although he tragically lost Mary at a very young age, he found love again at a local airport years later with JoAnne. The two celebrated their 51st anniversary this fall, having survived a marriage that included at least one meatloaf thrown at someone. Together they had another four children and many adventures in between.
A long-time employee of PECO, he retired into a part-time job at Cress Gas until his actual begrudging retirement years later. He was a one-time flight instructor and amateur pilot. He dreamed of building an airplane one day; the wings in his garage belong to that plane that never quite got finished. The Warrington Airport, where Fred and JoAnne met, was a regular hangout for decades. The family spent most summers at the Airventure Airshow in Oshkosh Wisconsin with friends from Warrington, most of whom predeceased Fred.
His love of funk and soul music made him the life of many parties as he imitated James Brown with the best moves a white boy from NY could muster. He adored travel, and the family regularly packed their custom conversion van full of camping equipment to travel the country for weeks at a time in the days before Mapquest and GPS; just the van, supplies, food, and a map bigger than the youngest child. Everyone fondly remembers climbing Pike’s Peak, JoAnne laid across the back seat praying for safety while Fred laughed and pretended to lose control. Another excursion to Maine ended with the front of the van duct-taped to the back of the van and a headlight hanging off to the side shining in every other drivers' eyes. (He also made duct tape cool before it ever was.) He was always ready to light a campfire with some lighter fluid and his trusty blowtorch or hook the icky worms onto the grandkids fishing rods.
He took pleasure in working on home projects. If you asked him how he knew how to do so many things, he would say, “I don’t know, you just do it and learn.” Of course, this did create some interesting projects just a step off of the Winchester House.
He was always curious and instilled in his children the importance of exploration. He invented mathematical mobiles for his babies to encourage brain development and told his children to question everything as they grew. A man of intense Christian faith, he reveled in heated debates with his mostly pagan, agnostic, or atheist children; the joy he got from arguing masked his disappointment in their opposing beliefs. Although he played it tough to the crowd, Fred was a total mushball who would melt with a beautiful song, a hug from a grandkid, or kisses from a puppy. He once railed against a new dog only to be the first on the floor with a puppy on his chest. His pets and grand-puppies all adored him and his squishy warm chair where they would cuddle next to him. He was generous beyond reason, often “adopting” friends, offering a room at his home or a place at a holiday dinner table to anyone who was lonely or down on their luck. He was famous for his adoration of the Coopersburg Diner and for treating his grandchildren to chocolate chip pancakes when he was their regular babysitter.
Fred is survived by his wife, JoAnne; his 5 children Fred III, Kirsten and her husband Douglas Jr., Jocelyn, Daniella and her husband Brian, Christian and his wife Nina; Grandchildren Fred IV and his husband Dan, Melissa, Nicola, Harrison, Capella, Charlotte, Douglas III, step-granddaughter Julia; Great Grandsons Graeme, Tyler; Sister Lois; and countless friends and family, many of whom considered him a second father. His path to the afterlife was well worn with the souls of his many friends and family who predeceased him, including his and JoAnne's twin sons.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Fred’s name to either the EAA Aviation Foundation https://www.eaa.org/eaa/support-eaa/ or The Alzheimer’s Association https://www.alz.org/. A celebration of life TBA in the Spring.
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