James “Jim” F. Olsen, 88, formerly of Granby, CT, and Southwick, MA, passed away peacefully at Suffield House surrounded by family on July 31.
Jim was born in New Brunswick, NJ, on Nov. 8, 1927 to James F., Sr., and Marybell Chandler (Lake) Olsen. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Nancy L. (Gillis) Olsen; sister, Carolyn C. Mugavin; and sons, Andrew, Peter and Eric, with their spouses, Susan L. Olsen and Kathy H. Olsen. Jim was blessed with four grandchildren, Alina, Tim, Alexandra, Geoffrey and their spouses, Shiyang Wang and Chana Porter. He was predeceased by his brother, Gerry C. Olsen.
Jim met Nancy in Great Neck, where they both graduated from Great Neck High School in 1945. His first job was as an aircraft mechanic at Roosevelt Field, from which he developed a lifelong interest in mechanics and engines. He was a veteran of both the U.S. Army Field Artillery at Fort Bragg, NC, and then as a First Lieutenant with the U.S. Air Force at McGuire air base in New Jersey. Jim graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. He was then employed by Pratt & Whitney Aircraft before joining Combustion Engineering for a 33-year career in nuclear engineering and project management. A resident of Granby, CT, for 55 years, Jim volunteered on the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Charter Revision Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. He enjoyed antique airplanes and automobiles heralding from the early days of transportation and aviation. Jim followed classic Dixieland jazz, teaching himself to play coronet and lead a band on a Connecticut riverboat. He played tennis and enjoyed all the social aspects surrounding the game. Jim was a longtime member of the Granby Tennis Club, where he served as president for two years. Known for working with his gifted hands, he was a watercolorist and never lost his love for skippering his sloop Mistral sailboat around New England’s seacoast.
Upon retiring, Jim became an active volunteer at the New England Air Museum, working to restore aircraft engines and fuselages. He was most proud of his contributions to the 1932 Gee Bee Supersportster R1 and the 1930 Sikorsky S-39 Jungle Gym, which are currently on display.
Calling hours were on Aug. 5 at Carmon Huling Funeral Home with a service at Trinity Episcopal Church on Aug. 6, followed by interment in Granby Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his name can be made to the New England Air Museum at Bradley Field or Disabled American Veterans.