Doug Oliphant leaves large legacy in Lake Oswego

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Doug Oliphant had a smile for every occasion, especially when he was with his family. In front is wife Barbara. In back are son Duncan, Oliphant, and daughter Beth Hoover.

The passing of Doug Oliphant happened so quickly and unexpectedly that many of his friends were left without the chance to say goodbye.

“Some of the people who needed to say goodbye didn’t make it,” said Beth Oliphant Hoover, Oliphant’s daughter. “One boy (who while suffering from throat cancer was befriended by Oliphant) was planning to come visit Dad. He was absolutely heartbroken when he found out Dad had died.”

But there are memorials for Oliphant all over Lake Oswego that will live for a long time. Oliphant died on May 21 at the age of 78, and it brought a time of reflection on not only what Lake Oswego had lost but also how much the city had gained thanks to Doug Oliphant.

“Dad had such a love of life,” Hoover said. “He was completely dedicated to this city. Everything he did was passionately purposeful.”

Business, the arts, senior citizens, golfers, flower fans, ice cream lovers —there was hardly a segment of Lake Oswego life on which Oliphant did not have impact.

The beautiful flower baskets now hanging up all over Lake Oswego? Oliphant was the daddy of that idea. The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center? Oliphant’s determination as president of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center Foundation made sure that the funds went to the LOACC, as benefactor Eloise Minter intended. Do you like shopping at exquisite boutiques or dining at Manzana Grill and other spots at Millennium Plaza Park? Oliphant fought for them to be built. Do you appreciate the beauty of Oswego Lake? Oliphant campaigned, against strong opposition, to have it cleaned up, and he succeeded. This is just a tiny listing of all the ways Oliphant benefited this community.

Some of his closest family members — wife Barbara, daughter Beth, son Duncan Oliphant, son-in-law Mark Hoover — gathered after Oliphant’s death to reminisce about the man who meant so much to them, and they were amazed by all of the material he left behind. Barbara Oliphant was by her husband’s side on many of his crusades, and she has a folder full of newspaper clippings about Oliphant, who certainly made a lot of news in Lake Oswego. One news photo from 2006 shows Oliphant standing on the shore of Oswego Lake, his arms outstretched, his mouth wide open, and looking a lot like Billy Graham preaching a sermon. It was the perfect pose for such a devout Christian.

“Oswego Lake was dirty and he wanted it cleaned up,” Barbara said. “Some people sued us for taking that stand. We won the court case.”

Oliphant was even able to turn personal tragedy into something positive and vital. After the shocking death of his son, David, from a heart attack, the grief-stricken Oliphant used his son’s death as a way to rally support to Donate Life and he started the David Oliphant Racing Series to memorialize his son’s character and what he stood for.

Controversy and Oliphant were not strangers. He took such strong, firm, tireless positions on issues he believed in that he sometimes made people mad. The lake cleanup issue was one example. Another was his drive to build a shopping area near First Street and A Avenue instead of allowing the land to be used for a park.

“He thought there were enough parks around Lake Oswego,” Barbara said. “He thought Lake Oswego people needed a place to shop. Some thought it was just a waste of time. Look at it today.”

“Dad was controversial. Whether you agreed with him or not he was a fighter,” Duncan said. “But at the end of the day his thought process was to make this city better.”

“He wanted to do right by this city,” Hoover said.

While he was up to his neck in civic activities, Oliphant was running a highly successful business, SeedPrint, which distributed packets of plant seeds to companies all over the globe.

Four years ago, however, Oliphant finally had to slow down. He was stricken with cancer, and he was forced to steadily reduce his causes. However, his final cause was the one nearest to his heart, Your Everyday Cross program, in which Oliphant gave away tiny, beautiful, wooden crosses made by his friend Vince Tylman. His purpose was so simple. He wanted to bring people closer to Jesus Christ and show God’s love for them, and by the end of his life he had given away more than 2,500 crosses.

“Every one of those crosses had a story to go with it,” Hoover said. “He said all of his other activities didn’t matter anymore. His heart was in the cross ministry. Now it’s such a web of friendship, support and ministry.”

An old adage states that you end up with the face you deserve. Oliphant had a great face. But the pain he faced from cancer grew greater and greater, and in the last week of his life it suddenly proved too great to overcome.

“Dad was suffering,” Hoover said. “He couldn’t talk in his final days.”

But Oliphant was still giving even after his death. In his will he made sure his corneas would be donated to the Donate for Life program. Hoover will take over her dad’s Your Everyday Cross program, and she and other family members will be working on ideas to memorialize a man who was such a good and faithful servant.

A memorial service for Doug Oliphant, open to the public, will be held June 13 at 3 p.m. at Lake Grove Presbyterian Church at 4040 Sunset Drive.

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