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Charles Oliver, first SES principal, passes away

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SNOQUALMIE - To his former students and colleagues, Charles Oliver was a devoted educator who supervised Snoqualmie Elementary School for 19 years.

To his family and friends, he was a family man who loved, among many other things, woodwork, watermelon and football.

Those who knew Oliver have been thinking of who he was and sharing those stories since his death on March 29 at age 82.

Oliver was born in Arkansas but his family eventually moved to Idaho. He grew up during the Great Depression and would ride railroads looking for work, a part of his life that inspired many stories he would share over the years.

"He was a memorable story teller," said Oliver's daughter, Jill.

He served in the Army during World War II, completing a tour of duty in the Pacific. Afterward, he worked for the Military Sea Transportation Service and a railroad company. He later attended Boise Junior College and Oregon State University before earning his master's degree in education from the University of Idaho. While he was teaching in Lewiston, Idaho, Oliver met another teacher, Patricia Miller.

"He was just a real neat, interesting guy," she said.

The pair married in 1955 and continued to live in Idaho until 1968, when Oliver was recruited to lead the new Snoqualmie Elementary School (SES) in Snoqualmie. Oliver presided over the waning months of the Snoqualmie Falls School, which then stood in the former town of Snoqualmie Falls above the Weyerhaeuser mill site.

"I remember him going around with buckets because of all the holes in the roof [of the Snoqualmie Falls School]," said Patricia.

Oliver took charge of the new school and helped his family solidify their place in the community. As scores of children went through the school, Oliver came to be known as a no-nonsense principal who placed a strong emphasis on order and education.

"He was a wonderful man. I don't know anybody who didn't like him," said Mary Brickey, who was Oliver's secretary for all his years at SES. "He knew education was the goal at the school and everyone should be involved, whether it was the bus driver, the cook or the custodian."

Oliver was equally devoted to the children of his house, which included daughters Jill and Kristy, and son Chuck. Jill praised her father's ability to lay down the family law while encouraging everyone to be the best they could be.

"He was strict, but very supportive and kind," Jill said.

As the Oliver children went on to have children of their own, the family's grandchildren could always find a willing grandfather with whom to spend time working on a project or relaxing on the couch.

"He just had a wonderful way with children," Patricia said.

When Oliver retired in 1987, he was able to spend more time on other passions, like football. Oliver was a football player in his younger years who carried his passion for the game all through his life. Patricia said he would get excited when football season arrived and go through a funk when it ended.

Another passion was woodwork and carpentry. Oliver found time many weekends to head out to Whidbey Island to work on the family's cabin, often bringing the children along to help. He built computer tables and study carols for his school, and also built the family's home in the Johnson Height's neighborhood of Snoqualmie where Patricia continues to live.

Oliver's family remembers many other things about him: his willingness to offer an opinion, his quickness when eating a slice of watermelon and his ability to sneak salvage into the house under his wife's nose.

Most of all, they remember a man who invested in other people's lives.

"He was interesting and he was interested," said Jill.

Charles Oliver is survived by his wife, Patricia; children, Jill Bathurst, Kristy Oliver and Chuck Oliver; two grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Remembrances may be made to the Humane Society for Seattle/King County, 13212 S.E. Eastgate Way, Bellevue, WA, 98005.

A celebration of his life will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, April 18, at the Mount Si Senior Center, 411 Main Ave. S., North Bend.

Friends are invited to sign the family's online guestbook at www.flintofts.com.

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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