Arnold R. OkermanOctober 18, 1925 ~ July 1, 2017 (age 91)
Arnold R. Okerman of Littleton, CO, passed away unexpectedly at home on July 1, 2017. Born on October 18, 1925, in Aitken, MN, he became the 6th of eight children to Finnish immigrants.
Arnold grew up as a farm boy, with the Mississippi River running right through their family’s property and providing food and fun year-round. When he was young, it was frequently his task to catch the fish for the day, though perhaps it was an older brother who had the greater love of fishing. Stories tell of swimming, and rope swings in good weather, hunting in the fall, ice fishing and ice skating in winter and always the farming. The family sold Christmas trees from a part of the farm in Dec, the last few probably given free. Arnold never could bring himself to pay much for a Christmas tree when the kids came along. He would wait until late in the season when the uneven trees might also be free, and he would drill the stalk to place extra branches, filling in the holes left by another tree growing too closely. Frequently, the tree’s crooked stalk created personality, but they always were beautiful when decorated.
Education and learning was of utmost importance in the Okerman family. Alex, his father, spoke five languages and while Finnish was the primary language at home, Arnold used it less frequently than the older siblings. More and more, English came into the conversation as the years went on, and words like “pneumonia” would creep in, such that a non-Finnish speaking family member could have some idea that they were probably discussing the cause of death of a neighbor. Encouraged to read widely, and both sides of a topic, it was Arnold’s desire to become a lawyer. Perhaps it was a bad experience for Alex, with or without the law, but it was his opinion that the profession was not always fair or honest, and he would not allow it for his son. And when Arnold received the offer of a sizeable scholarship to college while in the eleventh grade, it was turned down.
It is likely that the gift of a brilliant mind played a part in his post as an Aviation Radioman 3C when Arnold enlisted in the Navy during the latter half WWII. Only rarely did he speak of his military experience, and it sometimes seemed he was a bit embarrassed that his service was not as great as those who were overseas during the war. However, while it might seem to some unimportant, every role within a military exercise is vitally important to the effectiveness of the operation, and praise be to God that He in His wisdom created, and gifted, someone to handle every task necessary! Ultimately, the GI Bill helped afford Arnold a degree in photo-journalism from the University of Minnesota, the opportunity to meet his wife, and YEARS of enjoyment while debating or fighting for what he determined to be the moral and ethical solution to any issue.
Racing his dog as a youngster, Arnie trained himself to be a very quick runner, and in time was fast enough to play short stop on a Farm Club baseball team that competed over the state of Minnesota. Baseball in those days was rarely a “for-pay” event unless you were Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams. But it was while in Crookston, MN, playing baseball, and trying to earn a living by working at the “Crookston Times” that the newsman needed models for a dress advertisement, and his roommate asked, “Have you seen the new, young blond that works for the Municipal Judge?” The rest of that story is history, as they say.
Denver became home after marriage, and a few years after that Arnold and Jean bought their first home in Englewood, CO. It was very small and times weren’t easy. The neighbors were among the best, though, and many became life-long friends. There are lots of great memories of visits or trips to, or with, birth relatives, however. Arnold worked a variety of jobs, sometimes having more than one at a time because the newspaper didn’t pay much. His photos occasionally won contests that helped supply the family with something extra-special like camping supplies. Looking back, life was cramped, but pretty good all-in-all.
One day Jean stated to friends, “The kids and I are moving, and I hope Arnold will come along.” That was the day that Arnold started looking for a new home. He found a small, abandoned “farm” in Littleton, CO, with everything one could possibly want, though all of it needed repair. As luck would have it, the agent said to Arnold, “You kids can’t afford this place.” That was just the challenge Arnie needed. His very thoughtful mind was put to the test and his skills for dickering increased rapidly. He became one of the best! The family moved, and the adventure began.
The weeds on the back field would have been burned on the farm in MN, but that was too dangerous with houses in close proximity. Arnold knew sheep could survive on weeds, so he rescued five pregnant ewes from the stock yard. When he and Jean drove them home down Colorado Blvd, people at the red lights would do a double-take to see their station wagon, with none other than sheep in the back. Jean said, “There was nothing to do but wave at them.” It was after Easter, when each of the kids had been given a baby chick, that Arnold advertised that he would accept unwanted Easter pets. That was the beginning of the Pennsylvania Street “petting zoo”, and the annual spring visits from the nearby preschool, to see the new baby animals.
Years of time were very heavily dedicated to helping start and develop the Youth Soccer Program in Littleton, and even Colorado. Arnold loved the sport, the opportunity it provided for all kids to play for $1 and with few supplies, while advancing health and values. He coached youth for years before being paid to coach at Mullen High School, and he was a referee even at the international level. Not surprisingly, he demanded fairness, and more than once, removed either player or spectator.
Professionally, Arnold was as an estate planner dressing every day in white shirt and tie, but he always preferred the comfort of white, cotton socks. Occasionally, he wore black over the top, but one day, in 1977, he surprised Jean by saying, “They have made one too many rules at that place. Now, we MUST wear black socks! I think I am going to quit.” Jean said, “Okay.” She never believed the next day would be his last.
With a little more time on his hands now, Arnold decided to take up golf. He didn’t just play golf occasionally, but as any student would, he studied golf. His mathematical mind allowed him to calculate the geometry of the game, and the physics of his swing, making him a better than average player. When Arnold and Jean moved to Wolhurst Adult Community in the late 90s, he became a very active member of several of the clubs, enjoying poker and various other activities. He looked most forward to Mondays and Fridays, however, when he and his “golf buddies” would meet up. That group of men became a brotherhood and meant the world to him!
Arnold is remembered by his family as having spent hour upon hour contemplating the world. A voracious reader to the end, often taking notes on little pieces of paper, he could speak at length about any subject, recalling the minute details. Never lost was the pleasure of debating the truth, or fairness, or possible solution of an issue. His love of debate was so strong that he wasn’t above flipping sides to keep it going! It has been said that it wasn’t always clear which side Arnie was supporting. A true journalist!
Of all his God-given and developed gifts, perhaps Arnie’s greatest asset was his servant heart. His desire was to help out, especially the underdog, perhaps, and often he worked to quietly equalize the field. Not in a socialist way, but in a way of valuing everyone. He was willing to assist the vulnerable, and hoped to somehow encourage all he met, ultimately endearing him to almost all he knew… until one day recently, his physical heart just stopped!
Arnie is survived by Jean Olson Okerman, his beloved wife of 64 years, and daughter, Linda (Wayne) Goeke from OH, and sons, Warren (Jill) missionaries in Kobe, Japan, and Alan (Janet) living locally. He is also survived by 12 grandchildren living in 8 states, and Japan: granddaughters: Quincy Goeke, Kristina, Kimberly, Tiffany, Jenny, Kelly (Danny) Lewis, and grandsons: Cooper and Keegan Goeke, Joshua (Mara), Jason , Jeremy, and Matthew. Additionally, he has one great-granddaughter, Aubrey Lewis. Arnold also leaves behind his sister-in-law, Marcella, and younger sister, Mayme (Richard) Kolbinger, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and extended family.
Many, many will remember Arnold Okerman when a little lesson learned from him comes to mind!!
Military honors and internment will take place during a private service at Fort Logan National Cemetery, 4400 W Kenyon Ave, Denver, CO 80236, at 11am on August 4, 2017. All are invited for a celebration of life service at 2pm on Aug 4, at Littleton United Methodist Church , 5894 S Datura St, Littleton, CO 80120, and for a memorial reception at 6pm, provided by the Men’s and Women’s Club at Wolhurst Adult Community clubhouse, 8201 S Santa Fe Dr, Littleton, CO 80120. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Salvation Army, or Littleton United Methodist Church. Please sign the condolence book at www.drinkwinemortuary.com