Customers of Per Bye Ohrstrom didn't need a contract.
"He was always a man of his word -- his handshake was better than a contract," son Lars Ohrstrom said.
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Family members said Saturday they wanted to celebrate the panoramic life of a man who saw firsthand the strife of World War II, sang in the renowned Norwegian Boys Choir, was a groundbreaking entrepreneur and kept a place in his heart for his native Norway.
Ohrstrom of Arlington Heights died Nov. 8 after a battle with cancer at age 86. His wife of 60 years, Liv, died in October; the two were inseparable, Lars Ohrstrom said.
"My mom was his right arm -- we had trouble finding pictures of them apart," he explained.
Per Ohrstrom was born in Oslo and came of age during the German occupation of Norway in World War II. He attended officers' training school in Sweden, and recalled sitting next to Nazis, whose army was occupying his country, his son said. He later became a commissioned officer in the Norwegian Army and served with Norwegian forces in Germany.
After marrying Liv in 1952, the couple came to Chicago in 1954, where he took a job with the First National Bank of Chicago and then moved into executive positions in exporting and importing.
Ohrstrom struck out on his own in 1973 and started P.B. Ohrstrom & Son's and Maxicrop U.S.A. Corp., which imports organic feed and fertilizer made from seaweed in Norway.
"I called a customer and said he'd passed away -- the customer was crying on the phone," Lars Ohrstrom said.
Scandinavian to the core, Per Ohrstrom didn't carry his heart on his sleeve but "you knew he loved you," Lars said. "He was generous to his friends and family and the Norwegian community."
Ohrstrom never forgot his native country and was named Consul of Norway for Illinois in 1987 and appointed as a Knight of the First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit in 1995. That meant traveling with the king of Norway when he came to the U.S., Lars Ohrstrom said.
"He had diplomatic plates ... but he always waited in line at the passport office ... he was a very modest man," Ohrstrom said.
A funeral service will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 23 at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, Arlington Heights.