Catherine Mary Olcott

Cathie was born in 1925 near McMinnville, Oregon. She grew up in rural Yamhill and Lincoln counties, including Rose Lodge in the Coast Range, where she acquired a love of nature and the outdoors. She graduated from high school at 16, worked in Neskowin, and attended Linfield College until she joined the war effort working at the Swan Island shipyards. She met her first husband, Walt, while volunteering at the George White Service Canteen. After the war, they married and had three daughters, Lauriann, Marilee, and Melissa. In her 40s, after this marriage ended, Cathie became more active in The Chemeketans outdoor club, hiking, backpacking, and mountain climbing, and environmental and political activism. Cathie married Gordon West Olcott, who shared her love of nature, geology, and the outdoor life. Together they visited Western Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska, and the western U.S., and were members of the International Alpenverein. They loved staying in hostels, their VW camper, and camping under the stars. Cathie crusaded to save Opal Creek from mining and logging interests, and was honored by the state for her service. She played an important role exposing illegal timber sales of the Reagan administration, which in time forced the resignation of James Watt. She and Gordon continued their activism and adventures until she became his caregiver. She then became an advocate for elder and Alzheimer’s issues, writing articles and testifying before the Oregon Legislature. She was a lifelong learner and volunteer. She continued her education throughout her lifetime, earning a degree in Psychology at age 54, and continued with the Institutes for Continued Learning at Willamette University until she was 91. She worked for many years with preschool children and was a long-time volunteer with Willamette Valley Hospice. Cathie was also passionate about music, and was a member of the Salem Festival Chorale, singing in Europe and Scandinavia. She taught piano and sang in church choir. In her spare time, she was an gardener and naturalist, and served as president of the Salem Geological Society. She is survived by daughters Lauriann and Melissa, and their husbands Patrick and David; her grandchildren Anmarie and Alexander, and their spouses Michael and Sarah; her great grandchildren Max, Leo, and Simon; son-in-law Greg; and older sister Ellen. Her daughter Marilee and granddaughter Lenette predeceased her.

A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem on Saturday, June 29th at 1 pm. It is requested that attendees bring food for the Marion/Polk Food Bank, and that contributions be made to the Festival Chorale of Oregon (P.O. Box 12602, Salem, Oregon, 97309), or Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center (721 NW 9th Avenue, Suite 236, Portland Oregon 97209).


29 June

Memorial Service

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem

3215 Center St NE
Salem, OR 97317


Catherine Mary Olcott

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