Arnold E. Andersen
August 21, 1921 ~ November 14, 2012
One of the last WWII B17 flyers has left on his final flight. Arnold Andersen-known as Arnie-was born August 21, 1921 to the Rev. Hans Ernst and Ingeborg Andersen. He grew up with his two sisters and two brothers (both deceased) in the South Kitsap County community of Fragaria.
After graduation from South Kitsap High School he entered the University of Washington. Because the US was at war he left his studies to enroll in the US Army. He trained as a flyer. As First Lieutenant Andersen, assigned to the 381st Bomb Group at Ridgewell Air Base in England, he flew 26 combat missions over Germany in the B17 bomber. Throughout his life he maintained great pride and bittersweet memories of his wartime service.
On March 6, 1944 he married Ellen Brengan of Seattle, and loved her deeply throughout the marriage that lasted until his death 68 years and eight months later.
Arnie resumed his studies after the war and received his civil engineering degree in 1951 from the University of Washington. As a licensed civil and structural engineer he worked on many significant projects, including the Seattle Monorail. As chief engineer for Alweg Rapid Transit Systems, he designed the columns and the Seattle Center station platform and thus helped to create an enduring Seattle icon.
Arnie was a builder. With his father and brothers he built the family home in Fragaria. After his return from the war he purchased vacant land and started building an architect-designed, mid-century modern home where he and Ellen raised their four children, and where Arnie lived for the rest of his life. To say he built the house means that he made the forms for the foundation, and then drove nearly every nail, working evenings and weekends while he finished school and went on to full-time work as an engineer. The Andersen family, including by then two daughters, moved into the finished basement in 1947, and Arnie built the rest of the house around them as the family grew with another daughter and a son.
He built two more houses, and completed a partly-developed mobile home park near Mill Creek, but eventually dwarfed those achievements with a project that became his passion. In the 1980's he started restoration work on a decrepit building that used to be a steamboat landing in the lower Columbia River town of Skamokawa in Wahkiakum County. The building had good bones of old growth Douglas fir, a spectacular view down the river, and an interesting history; however, before Arnie started working, it was nothing more than 7,000 square foot box with a sagging roof sitting on deteriorating pilings. Today, re-christened as Skamokawa Landing, it is beautiful enough to enhance its scenic location. During the 20 or so years it took to restore the building, Arnie came to love Skamokawa, Wahkiakum County, and the people who live there.