William Olafsen

January 06, 1949 - August 22, 2017 

William Olafsen

January 06, 1949 - August 22, 2017 

Obituary for William Olafsen

With great sadness I must share the news of the passing of my beloved, William Dale Bernhard Olafsen. Bill died Tuesday, August 22, after a long up-and-down illness.

He was born to Anton and Catherine Olafsen in Beloit, Wisconsin, January 6, 1949. School began under watchful eyes at home, then on to the Manchester School District where his Mother taught. Bill cherished the value of liberal arts education, receiving a BA in Political Science from Beloit College. He pursued a BFA in Environmental Design from the California College of Arts and Crafts, where the program included study in Bergamo, Italy.

Bill’s professional life as an Interior Designer spanned decades. His career began with the prestigious firm Bruce Gregga Interiors, where he created the Design Department. While at Bruce Gregga, Bill met Elise Schreiber, with whom he founded Olafsen Schreiber Design Consultants. Over the span of 10 years they built a varied and loyal clientele, focusing on elegant residential interiors. In 1998, Bill formed Olafsen Design Group, maintaining his impeccable standards in design and customer service. Bill’s goal was to inform and educate his clients, then work with them to fulfill their dreams. He was a master of scale and proportion, of lighting and color. He enjoyed the respect of his peers and the gratitude of his clients. One friend said “Every time I walk into our home I’ll remember Bill.”

Our interests were shared and separate, allowing us to enjoy familiar pastimes and to lead each other to explore new opportunities. Two of our great loves could be combined: travel and dining. We visited lands foreign and local, exotic and familiar. He would derive great joy exploring people and places that were not us, and great comfort revisiting favorite places. We visited five continents over the years, and spent endless hours touring the Midwest in our 1984 LeBaron convertible. He was happy eating Sunday lunch a la Tour d’Argent; he was happy eating a burger and frozen custard at Kopp’s.

This year’s travels show the range of Bill’s interests. We started with our final grand trip, a week in Bath and London followed by a trans-Atlantic crossing on the Queen Elizabeth. We brought home our memories, and Elise Schreiber worked with Bill to create a photobook. We went on the Gentleman’s Ride on the Rails, the annual event Bill loved. We went to the Spring Barn Tour of the Iowa Barn Foundation. We spent time at our home in Mineral Point, and time at our home in Racine.

Bill loved me when I was unlovable. His love both carried and pushed me to become the person I always thought I was. When I’ve made the calls to our friends and families, everyone spoke of him as the sweetest, gentlest, kindest man.

We are grateful to the care team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for their years of comfort. In appreciation Bill left directions that his remains be donated to the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern through the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois. I will be planning a reception in his honor, in late fall or early spring. Please forward contact information so I may send an invitation.

Bill gave exacting directions for the distribution of his ashes at places he loved: in the Pacific off Big Sur, in the Mediterranean off Cap Ferrat, and at the Livingston Cemetery with his parents. I will perform this task at the appropriate time.

I saw a draft of a note Bill was writing not long ago. He had written “Thank you for enriching my life.” He had it backwards. We must thank Bill for enriching ours.

Tim Smith

Please visit WILLIAM OLAFSEN BOOK OF MEMORIES. To express your thoughts or memories in the online guest book, visit www.chapelc.com or www.facebook.com/centralchapel. Arrangements by CENTRAL CHAPEL, Lane-Moynihan Directors. Info., 773-581-9000.

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