Robert Carl Oliver | PASSAGES

Robert Carl Oliver  -
Robert Carl Oliver
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Bob Oliver passed away at home on Nov. 17, 2013 surrounded by his family, after a recent diagnosis of mesothelioma.

He was born Aug. 20, 1925 in Bisbee, Ariz., the third of four sons of Percy and Marie Oliver.

At age 2 he moved to Bainbridge Island, where the family purchased 10 acres on what is now Day Road. Money was tight, and he picked strawberries for the Suyematsu farm to pay for bicycles and Boy Scout camp. He and his brothers (Ray, Earl and Floyd) were all Eagle Scouts.

Bob graduated at age 16 as valedictorian of Bainbridge High School, class of 1942. His University of Washington studies were interrupted two years later by a world tour on the USS Fargo “courtesy of Uncle Sam’s Navy.”

He returned to the UW in 1946, where he completed BS and MS degrees in chemical engineering. He earned a doctorate at MIT in 1953.

Bob met UW student Laurel Weber on a ski trip, where her independence caught his eye when she bought her own coffee. They were married in May 1953, allegedly “for her money,” after he discovered she had $40 and a slide projector. They spent 10 years in southern California where he worked for Union Oil, Fluor, and Aeroneutronic, and where he loved the beach and skin diving. They had three children; Lynn, Diane and Jim.

In 1963 Bob took a job with the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a “think tank,” outside Washington, D.C. He worked on various programs--those involving climate change made clear the enormity of the CO2 emission problem. He stayed with IDA until retirement at age 77.

Bob and Laurel literally traveled around the world, to all continents except Antarctica.

In 2004 they sold their Bethesda, Maryland home and moved to Bainbridge Island. Bob rejoined Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church (which he first joined in 1938), was an enthusiastic member of The Men’s Oatmeal Club, and volunteered at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum (where he is pictured with the BHS Class of ’42).

Bob was clever and curious. He loved puns and jokes, avidly played Scrabble and bridge, and did the NY Times crossword puzzle until a week before his death. He kept his sense of humor to the end, when he noted wryly, “What a way to go, I wouldn’t recommend it.” He was a man ahead of his time – changing diapers, playing with his kids, and supporting Laurel in her pursuit of a PhD. Neighborhood children were known to request, “Can Mr. Oliver come out and play?” He loved his computer and with it preserved decades of photos and movies. As a chronologically elderly man he climbed trees, rode a bike, body surfed, chopped wood, built fires, planted an abundant garden, cleaned his gutters, dispensed financial advice, and skied. Most of all, he made his family laugh and was always there for them.

He is missed by “my first wife,” Laurel, of 60 years; Lynn (Sam Sharar) (Bainbridge Island); Diane (San Mateo, Calif.); and Jim (San Carlos, Calif.). He was adored by grandchildren Rudy Sharar (Oakland, Calif.), Rebecca Sharar (Seattle) and Claire and Henry Oliver (San Carlos, Calif.).

A celebration of life will be held next summer.

Sign the guest book at

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