June 21, 1923 ~ September 27, 2013
Olaf Kvamme died peacefully in his sleep in his home at Horizon House in Seattle surrounded by his loving family. A remarkable man, he demonstrated charm, wit, integrity and intelligence while contributing so much to his family and to the community. Olaf was our beloved father, brother, friend and colleague and we will miss him greatly.
Olaf was born on the family farm in Kvamme, the valley outside of Bergen, Norway. He came to the United States at the age of two months with his parents, Eli Alvhilda (Rivenes) Kvamme and Johannes Kvamme.
While living in Tacoma's Hill Top area, Olaf learned the Norwegian stories, nursery rhymes, and songs for which he was famous all his life. The family moved to Fife where Olaf attended school with many Japanese Americans. When they were interned in Puyallup, he would ride his bike to the fairgrounds to visit his friends.
Olaf studied two years at Pacific Lutheran College before being inducted into the Army. Although he never saw combat, the next four years were filled with adventure. Olaf was sent to the Universities of Chicago and Michigan to participate in the Army Japanese Language Program. He completed his studies just as the war was ending in 1945. He chose to spend one year in Japan with the occupation forces as an interpreter and a proofreader of the daily intelligence summary issued from General Douglas McArthur's office. He remembered those years with great fondness. He ended active duty and continued his military service in the army reserves, where he served in military intelligence units. He retired from the army reserves in 1974 having achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Olaf completed his studies at the University of Washington and in 1949 began an impressive career in the Seattle Public Schools. After spending 4 years as a teacher at Colman Elementary, he went on to be vice principal at High Point Elementary and principal at both Colman and Madrona Elementaries His special talents in dealing with groups, his integrity, his sensitive approach to community issues, and his administrative skills prompted his appointment to the central office. He served the district for the next 26 years in Director and Assistant Superintendent positions.
Extremely proud of his heritage, upon retirement, Olaf plunged into all things Norwegian in the community. He gave untold service and energy to the Nordic Heritage Museum and the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association. His vision, dedication, and hard work led to the creation of lasting projects which benefited both the Norwegian community and the city in general.
A respected leader in the community, Olaf accrued numerous awards including the St. Olav Medal bestowed by King Harold of Norway, and the King County Outstanding Public Employee of the Year by the Municipal League of Seattle. May 12, 2012 was proclaimed Olaf Kvamme Day by the City of Seattle.
Olaf was preceded in death by his wife of 35 years, Aileen (Trostad) Kvamme, in 1982. He is survived by his four children Steven Kvamme, Marvin Kvamme (Lee Gresko), Jan Kvamme (Stephen Conway), and Kay Plommer (Douglas), six grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, five siblings, numerous nieces and nephews, and Mary Henry, his dearest friend and steadfast companion of 29 years.
The family suggests that any donations in his memory be made to the Nordic Heritage Museum.
A Memorial Service will be held at Seattle First Baptist Church on October 20 at 3pm. Please go to www.olafkvamme.com for driving directions, a more detailed and personal obituary, and much more information about Olaf Kvamme's remarkable life.
Published in The Seattle Times on Oct. 6, 2013