Jim Oakland passed away just after midnight Aug. 15, 2022, aged 87.
Born in Miles City, Montana, on May 4, 1935, Jim answered an early calling to become a minister of the Gospel. It wasn’t too long though before he realized the call wasn’t actually coming from a deep inner revelation but from his family of origin (particularly the maternal side) — as well as the Pentecostal culture he was brought up in in rural Montana.
He met his wife, Helen Ritchie, at Bible college in Missouri. They married at 21 and had two kids by age 24. They did try the church option (Jim preaching, Helen on the organ) but Jim opened his ears to a more urgent, if somewhat distant, calling: to leave the church and get himself a “real” education. In late 1960, aged 25, he packed up his wife and two tiny kids into a Volkswagen Beetle and headed for Seattle — a big, far-distant, and certainly heathen city by Montana terms.
After acquiring a bachelor’s degree (Seattle Pacific College) and Ph.D. (University of Washington) in Psychology, Jim spent the next 35 years in private practice as a clinical psychologist. After a brief academic career at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, he committed himself full time to his practice, while also training at the Psychoanalytic Institute in Los Angeles. During these years he built up a formidable home library that continuously fed his keen intellect and curiosity about life and the human mind.
His next career started around the time of his retirement, somewhere in his 60s. Jim had always had a love of the outdoors and deep appreciation of the natural world. His curiosity turned towards the natural sciences and the copious tomes of psychology books gradually gave way to books on natural history, biology, geology, astronomy, and neuroscience. He hiked extensively in the San Gabriel mountains that buttressed their home in La Cañada, Calif., and the Olympic mountains in the Pacific Northwest, where Helen and Jim returned to in 1985, having had enough of the smog and noise of L.A. They found a beautiful cliff-side home on Bainbridge Island and Jim took up bird watching as a major preoccupation. When he wasn’t with his nose in a book sitting on the deck, his eye was glued to his scope, following the movements of his fine-feathered friends.
In 2003, fully retired, Jim and Helen moved to Port Townsend, again seeking a quiet haven far from city-life. For the next ten years, Jim defied his self-proclaimed identity as an introvert and entwined himself with various organizations in this bustling, artsy, left-wing town. He volunteered as a docent at the Marine Science Center, supported the Jefferson Land Trust with the purchase of property in Cappy’s Trail that now has forever protection from development, was part of the initiative to form the Science Reading Group and AHA (Agnostics, Humanists, and Atheists) at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, helped launch the Quimper Geology Group, was a participant in and supporter of Washington Native Plant Society events, and, with his love of classical music, was an avid supporter of the Olympic Music Festival and Port Townsend Chamber Music, plus he participated in several discussion and book reading groups in town.
From preacher to psychologist to naturalist, Jim’s final turn was back to his origins as a simple solitary man. "Quiet" by Susan Cain became his new mascot, the bible that would give him meaning and solace into his old age. His final decade was spent in his two favorite chairs: one in the living room, the other on the deck of their home, swaddled in half a dozen layers of thermals to keep out the Pacific chill, quietly watching his favorite things: birds and trees.
Jim died early on Monday morning, Aug. 15, 2022, in the Palliative Care unit at Jefferson Hospital, Helen by his side. He had been cared for at home with dementia and its accompanying malaise for several years. Fulfilling his wishes, his body will be turned to soil and given back to the earth to nourish the trees he so dearly loved.
You can learn more about Jim’s life at https://rememberingjim.weebly.com/