Harald Albert Abrahamsen, of Cobleskill, New York, passed away on May 7, 2020 in Providence, Rhode Island following a short illness from COVID-19. He was 77. Known by friends and family as Harry, he will be remembered fondly as a dedicated professor, a loving husband and father, and adoring grandfather.
Harry was a psychology professor, dedicated to generations of students for over 46 years. Teaching was his life’s work. He regularly innovated his classes and was excellent at engaging students, remaining passionate about teaching until his retirement. He had a natural curiosity about life and loved reading, learning, and seeking new adventures. He was eager to encourage and empower those he met, often cheering, “You can do it!”. He wasn’t afraid to take risks and was good at laughing at himself. He was a big, kind, gentle man who believed in everyone’s potential.
Harry was born to parents Andreas Herman Abrahamsen and Olga Pedersen Abrahamsen in Brooklyn, New York in 1942. Together with his younger brother, Roy Abrahamsen, he grew up in Bay Ridge, a Norwegian immigrant neighborhood. As a child he enjoyed playing soccer and doing activities with the Lutheran Youth Organization as a child. He also spent extended periods at his family farm in Norway. He graduated from Brooklyn Tech High School in 1960.
He went on to study Psychology at Harper College, graduating in 1964. He later received his Master’s degree from SUNY Albany in 1966. In the Fall of that year, he began teaching at SUNY Cobleskill with several other young faculty members that became his lifelong friends and colleagues. In 1969, he married the love of his life, Valerie Mendez Abrahamsen and they embarked on married life together in Ithaca while Harry pursued his PhD at Cornell. Following his coursework, Harry returned to Cobleskill to the work, community, and friends he loved so much. With Valerie’s help typing his dissertation, Harry happily completed his PhD in 1976. They welcomed their daughter, Erin, later that year.
Throughout most of his life, Harry pursued “new chapters.” He loved nothing more than to take on a new project, explore a new place, meet new people, and learn new things. He seemed to be writing the grandest, most entertaining, most unique life book that anyone could imagine. He enjoyed laughing and reminiscing about past chapters. Some highlights included, graduating from auctioneer school in Iowa, building his family home, selling shrubs, organizing campus-wide events with his social psychology students, selling odds and ends on the summer carnival circuit, building a community playground, volunteering as a mediator and cutting down enormous Christmas trees. He also took time to enjoy simple pleasures, like working on carpentry projects, chatting with students and colleagues in his office, and taking vacations with his family. He lived his life with joy and gusto.
Left to cherish the love and laughter he shared, are his wife of 50 years, Valerie Abrahamsen, his daughter Erin Abrahamsen (Justin Zumstein) of Providence, RI and three grandchildren, Emerson, Thoren, and Wyatt Zumstein. Several brothers and sisters-in-law, cousins, and numerous nieces and nephews mourn the lost of Harry as well.
Memorials may be made to the Harry Abrahamsen Scholarship Endowment at SUNY Cobleskill. https://web.cobleskill.edu/alumni/philanthropy/give-online/scholarship-donation/
Arrangements for a memorial service will be organized at a future date when friends and family can gather to honor him.
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