We regretfully share the news of the passing of Kenneth Arnold Olken at the age of 79. He passed away comfortably on July 29, 2021, at South Shore Hospital after a 35 year battle with Parkinson’s. Ken was born on March 16, 1942, to David and Gladys (Gesmer) Olken. He was a dedicated brother to Louise Kohorn and Neil Olken, a loving husband to Hélène Olken for 48 years, a devoted father to Abigail Olken Babson, Nathaniel Olken, and Jonathan Olken, and caring grandfather to 4 grandchildren.
Raised in Brighton and Newton he was the family rebel. After attending college, he moved to Beacon Hill for 9 years, riding his motorcycle and taking his boat to scuba dive when the weather permitted. (He always regretted having to skip Woodstock because it was the first good weekend on the ocean.) He loved riding motorcycles, highlighted by a tour of Europe on a Vespa in the early 1960s and a coast-to-coast tour of the United States in 1970 on his red BMW 600. Even though he stopped riding motorcycles when he had children, he kept his mustache his whole life.
Kenneth had a strong connection to Israel. He first visited Israel in the early 1960s where his sense of Zionism really took hold. He returned to Israel in the early 1970s and lived there for three years working as an engineer. It was during this time where he met his wife Hélène at Kibbutz Na’an. Upon returning to the United States, he remained active in Jewish life and Israeli culture, whether it was attending rallies with his children or working with the community. This culminated in the 1980s when he was president of the Jewish Community Center in Brockton MA.
After returning from Israel, Kenneth went back to work at the family business, Dyecraftsman, Inc., in Taunton, MA. There he worked with his father before eventually taking over the business with his recently deceased brother, Neil. Ken was the plant engineer where he was in charge of fixing and maintaining everything. The Mill and its employees were very important to him and his employees cared for and respected him in return. His children occasionally joined him on the weekends to help but mostly to ride the conveyor belts.
He raised his family in Sharon, MA, where he was a very involved father. He was a big fan of his children and would always attend their sporting events. He shared his love of the outdoors during weekly family hikes. He was a mentor to his kids, passing on his problem-solving skills and work ethic. After he retired he moved to the South End and was active in the redevelopment of the area, getting recognition from Mayor Menino for his efforts.
He battled Parkinson’s for 35 years but never let it define him. He remained active and independent to the end and never complained. His strength and resilience will remain an inspiration.
He will be missed by all who knew him.
Those interested in giving a gift in Ken’s memory are encouraged to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation: https://www.michaeljfox.org/donate
Donate by Phone at 1-800-708-7644
Donate by Mail Donation Processing
The Michael J. Fox Foundation P.O. Box 5014 Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014