When they were both in sixth grade in the Bayport-Blue Point area, Alden Olsson asked Florence Shand to marry him.
“Flo,” as she is known in the community, brushed him off. But some 15 years later they did marry — and remained a couple for 64 years.
Olsson, who was a widely known and admired figure in the community, died Thursday at his home in Bayport. He was 90.
“You know how you choose those people in life for certain qualities — I want to grow up to be like him? That was Alden,” said Karl Auwaerter, owner of Bayport Flower Houses, who has known the family for decades. “He was just the most kind, gentle, well-meaning person I’ve ever known. Just a sweetheart guy. Top class. Nothing better than Alden.”
Olsson and his wife were chosen in 2012 as the grand marshals of the Bayport-Blue Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a growing event that attracts several thousand people.
Auwaerter, who sits on the selection committee, said that as soon as the couple’s names were proposed, the vote was immediate and unanimous.
“They’re kind of those unsung heroes — not in the spotlight but they get so much done in the community,” he said. “Really keystones to the community.”
Olsson had made his mark in the area for decades. He was valedictorian and class president for the Bayport High School class of 1944, and later was selected for the school’s athletic and academic Hall of Fame. He played basketball and baseball, his wife said.
Olsson grew up in Blue Point and attended Blue Point Elementary School. After high school, he went to Rider College (now Rider University) in New Jersey, where he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and business administration, graduating magna cum laude.
After college he landed a job with Gimbels department store in Manhattan, where he handled the chain’s advertising production. He commuted on the Long Island Rail Road for 30 years.
Following that, Flo’s brother Jim Shand asked Olsson to come work with him at Shand’s supermarket in Bayport. Olsson spent nearly 20 years helping run the business.
Olsson got to know hundreds of local residents through the busy supermarket, entertaining them with his sharp wit and sense of humor, his wife said.
“He really should have been a writer for a stand-up comic on television,” Flo Olsson said. “He was well read and had a great ability for words, for language. He was cheerful, and had a very positive attitude about life.”
Olsson was a founding board member of the Bayport Heritage Association. He also served on the board of the Bayport Memorial Park and was active in the Bayport United Methodist Church, Sayville Yacht Club, Sayville Cabinet for the Sick, American Red Cross Blood Bank and the Sabre Club, a local social organization.
Olsson is also survived by a brother, Arthur Olsson, of Nashua, New Hampshire; three children, James Olsson, Deborah Stocker and Priscilla Kaywood, all of Bayport; nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Visiting will be Monday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Raynor & D’Andrea Funeral Home in West Sayville. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Bayport United Methodist Church.