A great Norwegian

Photos courtesy of the Lunde family

Celebrating the life of Olav Trygve Lunde

Olav Lunde died peacefully in his sleep in Seattle, Wash. at age 93 on Wednesday evening, May 30, 2012. During his final battle with congestive heart failure at Virginia Mason Hospital, he was surrounded by close family and friends, which gave him much joy and solace. He kept his love of life, his sense of humor, and his great compassion right up until his last hours.

Olav is remembered as a hard-working and much-beloved elder in Seattle’s Norwegian-American community in Ballard and beyond. During his long life, he was a merchant marine sailor, fisherman, electrician, business owner, inventor, and community volunteer and organizer. A charismatic and energetic man, he enjoyed people’s company enormously. To paraphrase Will Rogers, Olav never met a person he didn’t like. His love story with our amazing mother Louise lasted nearly 70 years. He missed her terribly after her death to brain cancer only a few months ago on February 23rd. We miss them both deeply and will always treasure their memory and the wondrous examples they set of active, joyful, and giving lives fully lived to the end.

He was born Olav Trygve Lunde on Byrknesøy, Norway, on April 13, 1919, the fifth of seven children to Peder Olai Lunde and Trine Norheim Lunde. He grew up on a small farm at Nordangervågen on Radøy (an island northwest of Bergen). Olav always loved boats and the sea and was constantly down at the nearby dock when the postal ship from Bergen and other boats stopped there. After being confirmed in the Lutheran church at age 14, Olav hired on as a mess boy on the fjord boat Alversund. In 1935, he joined the crew of the SS Fulton and spent two years traveling to Russia, Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa. He was on the SS Ophir when WWII broke out in Europe in 1939. Olav was a crewman at sea on the M/S Taranger when Norway was invaded by Nazi Germany on April 9, 1940. He also sailed on the Oregon Express, Panama Express, and Pan Europe in the Atlantic and Pacific during the war. At least one ship he had earlier sailed on was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boats. Suffering from severe ulcers and on medical leave for periods in Seattle, Olav also worked as an apprentice electrician at Sagstad Shipyard and attended night classes in electricity at Edison Technical School.

Olav met his future wife Louise Egaas in 1941 at a dance at Harmony Hall in downtown Seattle (they were both excellent dancers). They dated during the war years and became engaged after Olav returned from a visit home to Norway in 1945-46. He immigrated to Seattle via Vancouver, BC in June 1946. He and Louise were married on August 2, 1947 at Ballard First Lutheran Church and honeymooned at Anacortes. In 1946, Olav started working summers as a tuna and halibut fisherman and as a shipyard electrician the rest of the year. In 1952, he became an electrician foreman at Seattle Shipbuilding in Ballard. Evenings and weekends in his basement at home, he designed and created custom-built switchboards for the Ballard fishing boat fleet. Deciding to start his own business in 1955, Olav convinced his ex-foreman Jack Raynes to join him in founding Lunde and Raynes Electric in a small wooden building in the Pacific Fisherman boatyard. That same year, Olav and Louise’s first child Arne was born, followed by Kristy in 1956, Kathy in 1958, and David in 1961. Olav bought out Raynes in 1960 to form Lunde Electric Co., Inc. and the business expanded into 2 levels of the newly-built Market Plaza Building. During the 60s and 70s, the Lunde family also greatly enjoyed their summer home at Tillicum Beach on Camano Island and hosting lots of family and friends.

Olav and Louise bought their home in Blue Ridge in 1973, where they resided for almost 40 years. Olav retired from Lunde Electric for health reasons in 1975, selling the firm to family member and business partner Sigmund Eriksen. He and Louise then became active travelers on several Washington State Trade Mission tours led by Lt. Governor John Cherberg to Europe, Asia, and Australia. Meantime, they remodeled and refurbished the house that Olav had grown up in Norway, and the family enjoyed many wonderful trips staying there over the years. Olav and Louise also loved being at their timeshare condo at Lake Chelan, savoring time with their children and grandchildren, Kjell, Elliott, and Stian.

In 1979, Olav co-founded the Seattle chapter of the Norwegian Seamen and War Veterans Association (Norges Krigsseilerforbund) and served many terms as its president, with Louise as its secretary. The NSWVA recognized Norwegian sailors for their bravery and sacrifice during WWII on the Allied convoys and granted them veterans pensions from a grateful Norwegian nation. At its height, the Krigsseiler association in Seattle grew to have close to 200 members and the group held conventions and cruises together with other west coast chapters from Vancouver BC, San Francisco, and San Pedro. Despite the inevitable passing of so many beloved members over the years, the Seattle chapter (led by Olav and Louise) continued to be active with a newsletter and events like codfish dinners, picnics, Christmas parties and spring luncheons right up until this year.

Olav’s many honors included being made a Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit on October 5, 1995 by order of His Majesty King Harald V of Norway. Olav and Louise were invited to the Royal Palace in Oslo for Olav’s personal audience with the king in December. The Ballard Chamber of Commerce inducted Olav into the Ballard Hall of Fame that same year. His avid hobbies included reading (esp. about WWII and ships), cooking Norwegian specialties, watching political news, and playing solitaire. He and Louise traveled to Norway many times over the years and Olav made his last trip there this past November to be honored with other seamen war veterans in Kristiansand. He was an active long-time member of many organizations, including the Sons of Norway Leif Erikson Lodge #1 (he was named “Man of the Year” in 1993); Norwegian Commercial Club; Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce; Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, Karmøy Club; Nordlandslaget; Nordmanns Forbundet; Nordmorslaget; Masonic Lafayette Lodge 241; Scottish Rite; Nile Temple of the Shrine; Society of Port Engineers of Puget Sound; and Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church.

Olav was preceded in death by his beloved wife Louise; his parents Peder and Trine Lunde, Radøy, Norway; his brothers Reidar Lunde (Ruth) and Søren Lunde (Loretta) of Seattle; his sister Marie Uthaug (Richard) of Fedje, Norway; his sisters Anna Brandsrud (Per) and Anny Nordanger (Einar) and brother-in-law Tom Egaas, all of Seattle.

He is survived by his four children: Arne Lunde (Sharen Manolopolous), Los Angeles, CA; Kristy Lunde (Chip Grimes), Seattle; Kathy Lunde, Butte, MT; and David Lunde, Seattle, and by his three grandsons: Kjell Olav Myraas, Butte, MT; Elliott Rau, Marysville, WA; and Stian Lunde Myraas, Seattle. Olav is also survived by his brother Øyvind Lunde (Kirsten), Radøy, Norway; brothers-in-law Ken Egaas (Marilyn) of Leavenworth, WA and Ben Egaas (Dorothy) of Seattle, and sister-in-law Jennie Egaas, Seattle. He also had a large extended family in the U.S. and Norway that includes cousins, nieces, and nephews, all of whom loved him very dearly.

A memorial service will be held at 1 pm Saturday, June 23rd, at Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church at 2400 NW 85th St. in Ballard. A memorial celebration of Olav’s life will follow the service at Leif Erikson Hall, 2245 NW 57th St. in Ballard. A private graveside service for extended family will precede the church service at 11 am at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Olav’s name may be made to Sons of Norway Leif Erikson Lodge #1 and to Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church.

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.