SALISBURY BEACH — Hailed as one of the last of the old guard of Salisbury Beach Center, 87-year old Fred Abdulla passed away peacefully on Saturday with his family around him.
Abdulla, who with his wife, Julia, lived in homes in North Andover and Salisbury Beach, spent more than 75 years at Joe’s Playland, the family’s Broadway business in Salisbury Beach Center. First as a teenager, Abdulla worked at the games arcade every summer for his uncle and aunt, Joseph and Jenny Haballa. Then, in the late 1940s, the Abdullas opened an ice cream stand, but by the 1960s, they owned and operated Joe’s Playland together, and they did so for the next half century.
Salisbury Selectman Ed Hunt, grew up in Salisbury and remembers Abdulla as one of the hardest working people he’s ever known, and one of the easiest to work with.
“He was there every day, seven days a week,” Hunt said. “I remember we kids looked up to him; he was friendly to us. He was an easy-going guy. He was a beautiful person.”
According to Salisbury Discount House owner Sandy Sheafer, advancing years didn’t keep Abdulla away, even after his children took over the business.
“He was at Joe’s Playland last year,” Sheafer said. “He was always there greeting people. It’s so sad, because he’s one of the last of the old-timers on the beach. He’s been a figurehead here for as long as I can remember.”
Salisbury Chamber of Commerce president Maria Miles was also saddened to hear of Abdulla’s passing, After knowing him since 1978, Miles said, his relaxed personality and helpful nature was a valued asset that will be missed.
“He was just a wonderful man,” Miles said. “I don’t ever remember him getting angry at anyone over anything. And he passed that on to his sons. He and his wife, Julia, were such a lovable couple. You could tell they were very much in love.”
Miles said one of the things that set Joe’s Playland apart from other games arcades is that it never stagnated. Every year it had the latest games, she said, the types that were mentally challenging.
“You didn’t mind if your kids went there, because with the games they had at Joe’s Playland, the kids would learn something,” Miles said.
Born in Methuen, Abdulla grew up in Lawrence, attending local schools there. He entered the Army in August, 1944, a couple of months after graduating from Lawrence High School. He served in the 8th Armored Division’s tank battalion, he fought in the legendary German offensive, known as the Battle of the Bulge. Abdulla then took part in the Allied invasion of Germany in the Rhineland, and remained in Central Europe as part of the Allied occupation until he was honorably discharge in July 1946.
Returning to Lawrence to work at his family’s Elm Street Abdulla’s Market, Abdulla went on to work at Amesbury’s Bailey’s Corporation for years until the late ’60s, when he and his brothers opened Abdulla’s Bakery in Lawrence.
But Abdulla will always be best known for his decades at Joe’s Playland, where he was a continuing presence greeting generations of Merrimack Valley beachgoers with a smile.
Immediate family members he leaves behind are his wife Julia (Aberizk) of 64 years, daughter, Dianne Kalil, and sons, Frederick and Daniel, as well as his brother, George. He was predeceased by his parents, Joseph and Mary (Yazbek) Abdulla, his brother, Abraham, and sister, Georgette.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established in his name, and contributions may be made to the Frederick Abdulla Memorial Scholarship Fund, C/O The Institution for Savings Bank, 7 Bridge Road, Salisbury, MA 01952.