Fred W. Oser

Fred W. Oser, scholar, librarian, and violinist, died of heart failure, overlooking the Manhattan skyline on October 5, 2020, at the home of his partner, Linda Wasserman, in New York City. He was 83.

He was born the day after Christmas in 1936 to Catherine Hoover and Frederick William Oser in Harrisburg, PA. His mother died when he was three, and Mary Critchfield later became his stepmother.

He showed great academic promise, stretching beyond the limits of family life where his dad taught high school typing, and his mother was a government clerical worker. His diligent efforts culminated in his nomination as valedictorian of the class of 1954 at William Penn High School. A budding violinist, he joined the Harrisburg Symphony in high school and was captain of the tennis team.

His most cherished accomplishment was the invitation to join the class of 1958 at Yale University, riding a new wave of working class admissions. Yale strengthened his enduring pursuit of knowledge, truth, and insight about the human condition. While he graduated with a degree in English, he explored history, political science, religion, and art history with vigor.

He loved to ask what you were reading, and rarely did your selection match the heft of his. He would casually mention that he was re-reading Shakespeare’s oeuvre, delving into Milton, wending his way through the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita, or polishing off all of August Wilson’s plays. A few weeks before his death, he announced that he had read the last of about 75 recent books that revealed “how the world really works,” which he would not hesitate to explain.

He spent most of his working life finding just the right book. Earning an MA in English at NYU, and a library science degree at Columbia University, where he completed the coursework for a Ph.D., he worked at the New York Public Library, followed by a period in the English department at Monmouth University. He settled into a 28-year career as a reference librarian in New Jersey’s Monmouth County library system. One colleague fondly recalls that he was the best librarian she had ever met.

After raising two daughters, he made his way back to New York where music was a conduit, not only for enjoyment and expression, but also for the two loves of his life. He met his second wife, artist and psychotherapist, Joyce Silver, at the opera, and 22 years later, his partner, educator, Linda Wasserman at a New York Philharmonic rehearsal. Surviving a cardiac arrest at a Giants game in 2001, he rebounded with two decades filled with family, the arts, lively conversation, and critiques of social inequality.

His wife, Joyce Silver, precedes Fred in death. He is survived by his partner Linda Wasserman; daughters Corey and Mandy Oser; stepdaughter, Soshi Cook; sons-in-law, Cheikh Sankhe and Declan Bracken; grandsons Ousmane Sankhe and Oisín Frederick Bracken, and his best friend, Irving Hulteen.

In lieu of flowers, read a book, vote, and take an action to benefit your community.