Northwest NEWS

July 20, 1998


Oscar Roloff: A tribute for his 80th birthday, Aug. 3


Oscar Roloff

   by Deborah Stone
   Features writer

   Over the years, readers of the Woodinville Weekly have grown familiar with Oscar Roloff's stories and his homespun folksy style of writing. Roloff has provided us with a collection of memorable characters that have included his family members, old Navy friends and local community people.
   From Oscar, we have come to expect a dry sense of humor and wit coupled with a slice of history to enrich our perspectives. He has made people come to life in a colorful and entertaining way, knowing exactly how to hook his readers' interest.
   "My dad has always been interested in people," says Riana Roloff, Oscar's daughter. "He is curious by nature and loves to talk to people. He can easily approach anyone and immediately start talking to them."
   As a child, Riana remembers driving around with her father and making detours to check out unusual places and unique people. She says, "He was like Thoreau, always going down the road less traveled."
   Almost eighty years old now, [Ed. note: he will celebrate his eightieth birthday Aug. 3] Oscar Roloff has enjoyed a full and productive life. He grew up in the Yakima area and went into the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school in 1938.
   The Navy was his life for the next twenty years and during his tours of duty, he saw much action. Roloff was stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked and was also in France for the Normandy Invasion on D-Day. During the war, Roloff was involved in making trips to Russia with war equipment, a duty that earned him a medal from Boris Yeltsin years later.
   As a Navy correspondent, he was stationed in Tokyo for three years to cover the Korean War, followed by a five-year stint in Washington, D.C. as editor for the Navy recruitment magazine. When he retired, he had reached the level of Chief Correspondent for the Navy.

   After retiring, Roloff returned to the Seattle area and went on to receive his teaching degree from the UW.
   He spent the next eleven years as an elementary and junior high school teacher on Mercer Island.
   Writing has been a consistent pursuit in his life, and he has enjoyed chronicling events and interviewing people as a freelancer for various local newspapers (as a side note, Oscar has never asked for money in exchange for his articles).
   As a pastime, he puts out journals of his stories and sends them to family members and Navy buddies around the country. Elaine Roloff, Oscar's wife, comments on what she sees as one of her husband's gifts. She says, "He gives of himself to others gladly and willingly. It gives him joy to do this."
   People are important to Oscar and he tries hard to keep up his friendships. Often, he has forged relationships with people whom he has interviewed for his stories. Long time local resident Dave Harder first met Oscar about twenty years ago when Oscar came into his store, Duvall Hardware, to talk about the town of Duvall and some of its noteworthy characters.
   "He wrote about me, my family and the history of the store," says Harder. "Oscar has a stong investigative nature and an ability to write about his findings in a way that interests people. We became good friends over the years and I think very highly of him."
   Ed Wallace of Kirkland, another friend of Oscar's, describes him as a "good-hearted guy" who's a "great storyteller."
   "Oscar knows so many characters, but then again he's a real character himself!" says Wallace.
   Wallace also comments on Roloff's appreciation for nature. "He really enjoys working outdoors, clearing land and planting. He's like a human bulldozer!"
   Riana Roloff adds, "My dad has always kept physically active, and being outdoors is important to him. When we were younger, we did a lot of camping during our vacations, and it is from him that I, too, learned to enjoy nature."
   Paul Waterman of Woodinville was first acquainted with Oscar when he came to do a story on the metal cows on Waterman's land (these are the now famous metal cow scuptures located off the Woodinville-Redmond Rd.). "Oscar wanted to hear everything about those cows," says Waterman. "That's the kind of guy he is, curious about out-of-the-ordinary, simple things. Not only does he write about them, but he also likes to take photos of them to accompany his stories. He has a good eye for capturing the best of what he's focusing on."
   Friends and family interviewed all mentioned Oscar's kindness towards others, as well as his strong work ethic and morality.
   "My husband is a gentle man who sees the good in people," says Elaine Roloff.
   Riana comments, "My father always tries to be fair in his dealings with others. He is a true gentleman."
   Waterman adds, "Oscar's a very honest man whom you can trust."
   Regarding his work ethic, Riana explains: "My dad has worked hard all his life. He sets goals and accomplishes them, not letting anything stop him. He's definitely a perfectionist though, and he can be very stubborn when he sets his mind on something. But I think this quality has helped him greatly because he's a fighter and has refused to give up when the odds have been against him. He believes in the power of positive thinking."
   Oscar Roloff's slices-of-life stories are filled with much compassion and humor. The reason these articles have been so special to readers is that they are so personalized. Oscar has given of himself to others through his writing and this is the best gift to receive.