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Arne Baekkelund

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Baekkelund, Arne, President of AB Maritime in Pompano Beach and a prominent, well liked figure in the cruise industry for more than 30 years, died Sunday in Fort Lauderdale. He was 72. Born in Hamar, Norway and educated as a hotelier, Baekkelund spoke seven languages and spent many years as a hotel manager aboard cruise ships sailing the world. He was keenly intelligent and known as a 'walking encyclopedia,' with an abundance of global contacts. Baekkelund lived in South Florida for decades where he was a long-time president of the Norwegian Shipping Club and the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce. Baekkelund's cruise career began in 1969 when he supervised the construction of Royal Caribbean's Song of Norway. He supervised the building of 15 new ships and numerous vessel refurbishments. He was instrumental in the development and launch of Royal Caribbean Cruises' original three ships and went on to hold senior operations positions at a number of lines as well as helping pioneer several innovative cruise concepts. Baekkelund was a founding partner in Ocean Development Group in Miami and instrumental in the development of The World of ResidenSea. In recent years he devoted his energy to the Four Seasons residential ship project. He is remembered by family, friends and colleagues the world over as an optimistic, good-natured person with culture, charm, refinement, and supreme class. He looked for the good in all people and was generous in his thoughts, spirit and actions. Baekkelund was modest and soft-spoken and always a gentleman. He was also witty, with a dry sense of humor and quick with a quip. Baekkelund loved life, making the most of every moment. Athletic and outdoorsy, he swam daily, and enjoyed working in the yard and canoeing on the Peace River. He was a winning long-distance bicyclist, including 540km races in Norway. Most of all, he was a loving husband and father, sharing pride in the accomplishments of his children. In the words of his family, "We were so lucky." He is survived by his wife, Suzan; son Christian and daughter Inga. He is also survived by daughter Caroline Baekkelund-Hauge and grandchildren, Johanna and Eirik and brother Thor. A memorial will be held 2 PM, Saturday at the Norwegian Seamen's Church at the Port of Miami, 1180 S. America Way. A private celebration of his life will be held at the family home on Sunday. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Arne Baekkelund Memorial Fund, www.baekkelund.com/arne
Published in Sun-Sentinel from June 26 to June 27, 2008
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