Frederick Olaf Olson – April 16, 1912 to September 11, 1981
Two times every year Pleasant Community Church receives interest money from what we all just call “The Olson Fund”, and we choose what to allow this money to do to further the Kingdom of God. Like every gifted endowment, there is a story of a person, or a family behind the money we often take for granted. The case of Fred Olson is no different. Some among us at Pleasant Community Church remember Fred, but there are many of us that never knew him. Let me try to capture some of his story here, on this web page so that folks might know who he was and allow his monetary gift to give us reason to remember or learn his story. As of 2021, 40 years since his death “The Frederick Olson Fund” has earned $380,000.00 in interest used by Bethlehem Covenant Church from 1983 to 2005, then Pleasant Community Church from 2006 onward to support missions (both local and foreign), local projects not in the regular budget, and events not planned ahead of time. Thanks to Fred Olson for the gift that continues to provide! I didn’t know him, but I am thankful for his life and his commitment to the Lord and His church!!
Fred was born in Johnsonburg, PA on April 16, 1912 to Swedish immigrants David Nathaniel Olson and his wife Chersty Louisa (Frederickson) Olson. The elder Olsons came from Sweden, unmarried, but both aboard the S.S. St. Paul, arriving on May 25, 1901 after a 7 day voyage across the sea from Liverpool, England to New York City. David Olson was 18, born March 29, 1883 and Chersty Frederickson was 21, born October 17, 1879. They each joined family already settled in Johnsonburg, PA. They either already were acquainted or met on the ship, and were married August 24, 1910 at the Johnsonburg Mission Covenant Church, the wedding officiated by the Rev. Karl E. Bergstrom. They had a son April 16, 1912 whom they named Frederick Olaf Olson. Fred was baptized at the Johnsonburg Mission Covenant Church on November 17, 1912. Thus began a life of dedication to the Lord. David Olson worked as a plumber in Johnsonburg and Chersty was a housekeeper as was common in those days. For unknown reasons, the family left Johnsonburg, PA for Warren, PA in 1921, when Fred was just 9 years old. David worked as a cabinet maker for various furniture factories, retiring from Crescent Furniture Co. in 1947. Chersty passed away October 11, 1951.
The family transferred their membership from Johnsonburg Mission Covenant Church to Bethlehem Covenant Church when they arrived in Warren, PA. A young Fred Olson, age 16, was a member of the confirmation class of 1928 at Bethlehem Covenant Church. Fred graduated from Warren High School in 1930 and went on to become an engineer for General American Transportation Corp. He worked in Chicago, IL and lived there for a period before moving to Allentown, PA where he spent 40 years. His father David lived with him after his health had deteriorated, and David passed away in February, 1976. The Olsons maintained their membership at Bethlehem Covenant Church in Warren, even when living away. Following the death of his father and retirement in 1977, Fred returned to his boyhood home town of Warren, PA in 1977, living in Pleasant Township at the Commons Apartments until his death in 1981. Pastor Randy Surey of Bethlehem Covenant at the time of his Fred’s death described Fred as “a very generous donor to the church in his lifetime and he wanted to continue that legacy in the future” and he willed his estate to the church. All of Fred’s assets were liquidated and deposited into an investment fund with National Covenant Properties to benefit Bethlehem Covenant Church om perpetuity. The money God allowed Fred to manage in life continues to further our mission, now at Pleasant Community Church through bi-annual interest checks from the endowment fund.
SLIDE SHOWS FROM FRED OLSON’S COLLECTION
In addition to providing money, Fred donated several items to the church including his slides and videos. What was Fred like, I wonder as I think about what we might use this quarter’s interest check to buy? He was fond of churches, fond of Sweden, he liked clouds, sunsets and scenery. Below are three videos, kind of long, but they contain many of his slides set to music. One video is of the 1955 July 4th celebration in Warren, PA. The other two take you around the world to places and scenes that allow you, those watching today to see things through Fred’s eye by way of his camera.
Scenery and Churches set to hymns:
Sweden trips set to Swedish folk music:
Warren PA July 4th Parade 1955 – Seen from corner of Conewango Ave and Pennsylvania Ave: