Albert K. Axelsen Jr: Veteran, devoted father who earned key to the city

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PORTLAND — Albert K. Axelsen Jr., 73, passed away June 22 at the Maine Veterans Home surrounded by family.

He was born in Portland, the son of Albert and Margaret Fuller Axelsen. He grew up in Libby Town and attended Portland schools.

At the age of 17, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served as a firefighter in crash and rescue during the Korean Conflict. He was stationed in California and served in Greenland. While on leave, he met the love of his life, Pierina DiPietro Axelsen. After a two-week courtship they married on February 23, 1956. They were married for over 46 years until she passed away in 2002.

A pipefitter for Local 217, he was a proud member of the union and advocated for his fellow brothers. He often shared stories of his adventures with his family and left his artistic signature, making bacon on the job.

After retirement, he joined the Portland School Department as a bus driver. Known as “Big Al” or “Papa Ax,” he played music and sang songs with the children, handed out lollipops and provided gifts for Christmas. He was awarded a key to the City of Portland by the Mayor.

After leaving the school department, he was a tour guide for the Portland Trolley. He often made the passengers on the bus laugh as he entertained them while sharing stories of the City’s history and landmarks.

He was a devoted husband, father and gave unselfishly to his wife and children.  When his boys started playing sports, he helped build Little League Five. He coached, umpired, or simply gave a helping hand to a young child. He worked to ensure no child was left out and had equipment needed to play the sport. 

His generosity went beyond Little League. He was known to hand out $5 bills at the Bayside Soup Kitchen, play Santa for the mentally challenged and donate toys at Christmas time for Toys for Tots.

He will also be remembered for his courage. One of his sons recalls driving down the road with the family his father saw a child in a burning building on Congress Street. He stopped the car, went into the burning building and saved the child.

He was a communicant of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, a member of the Eagles, Elks, VFW, Paul Malia Post and the Italian Heritage Center. He enjoyed going to Hampton Beach and Fort Williams with his late wife and spending time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, listening to country music, hunting and watching his favorite baseball team, The Yankees.

After his wife passed away his children gave him a treasured gift, his dog, Boo. Boo became a trusted companion who brought him much happiness.

He is survived by three sons: Mark and his wife Cindy; Albert K. III; Richie J. and his wife Mary Axelsen all of Portland; two daughters: Lisa and her husband Michael Joyce; Mary M. and her husband David Walton, all of Portland; a sister, Donna and her husband David Berry of Westbrook; ten grandchildren: David and his wife Kelly Walton; Mark and his wife Nicole; Amanda Axelsen; Gina and her husband Tony Kostopoulos; Albert Axelsen IV; Janessa M. Axelsen; Michael and fiancé Carly; John Joyce; Vanessa and her husband Mike Robinson; nine great-grandchildren: Gabe, Mark, Lucy, Rocky, Isaiah, Eliana, Camden, Cacen and Michael; his brother-in-law Carmine DiPietro and sister-in-law Peggy Axelsen.

He was predeceased by his wife, Pierina, and his brother Richard Axelsen.

Services were held earlier this week.

Contributions may be made in his memory to: Preble Street Soup Kitchen, 5 Portland St., Portland, ME 04101.

Visit for additional information and to sign the guestbook.

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Axelsen Jr.