Edwin L. Olander '38
Deceased October 9, 2008
(View alumni profile - log-in required)
Edwin L. "Ed" Olander
Journalist, WWII ace, popular businessman, Ed also shared an honor with Amherst’s most famous alumnus; he and Calvin Coolidge were mayors of Northampton.
Coolidge, Class of 1895, served two terms as mayor early on the road to the White House. Home from the war as one of the famed Marine Black Sheep Aces, Olander also served twice as chief of his native ‘Hamp’. He called it an “enjoyable challenge” but found he “didn’t much like the mechanics of getting elected” and chose business instead. He became a manufacturer’s representative and distributor for firms supplying clay brick and masonry products until he retired in 1991.
Late into his 80s, “Ed played tennis and swam half-mile laps regularly at the YMCA pool,” a son, Edwin Jr. said, but then his health faded, there were strokes and he rapidly deteriorated after Flora, his wife of 64 years, died in April 2008. His own death in Cooley Dickinson Hospital followed six months later on Oct. 9.
A graduate of Northampton High School, Ed majored in history at Amherst and was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. After graduation, he went into journalism, working as a newsman with Springfield papers. Then he moved to Chicago to work in railroads. With the outbreak of war, he became a U.S. Marine fighter pilot.
He was credited with downing five enemy planes as a member of the Black Sheep squadron based in the Solomon Islands. The unit, linked with its commanding officer, Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, became the source of a celebrated television series “Baa Baa Black Sheep” in the 1970s.
In his 50th Reunion memoir, Ed called his war experience “especially exciting” and recommended a book called Once They Were Eagles: The Men of the Black Sheep Squadron, written by Frank E. Walton, the unit’s intelligence officer, published by the University Press of Kentucky in 1996. Ed received the Distinguished Flying Cross and other decorations. He kept in contact with squadron mates and attended several reunions.
“We feel lucky that we’ve been able to make our home here in the Connecticut River Valley,” Ed wrote. His nearness to Amherst made him the man-on-the-scene to alums. He kept them in touch with developments in ‘Hamp’ such as the demise of Rahar’s. In a 2004 note, he said he lunched frequently at a restaurant with a view of the building, still there but not as an inn or beer hall.
Known for life as “Mayor,” Ed was also president of Cooley Dickinson Hospital for many years. He was a director of the former Northampton National Bank and a trustee of the Lilly Library in nearby Florence and of Look Park.
Besides son Edwin, he left three other children, Frederick G. of Florence, John R. of Richmond and Holly O. Remington of Guffey, Colo.; two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held for both Ed and Flora at a Northampton funeral home.
George Bria ’38