It’s not the first time I’ve cried, Verna.

Feb 16, 2022 | 0 comments

Verna Oller, January 2007

When I saw the picture of Verna Oller on the front page of the Observer today — the picture I took of her back in 2007 —  I began to tear up.  I knew the article would be going over old information and putting yet a different spin on the justification for no pool in Long Beach.  I found I couldn’t blog about it again.  Instead, I’m re-posting a story I wrote almost twelve years ago.  Just a reminder that some things don’t change…no matter how much they should.

No Fanfare; Only a Swimming Pool
By Sydney Stevens
May 2010

In October 2007 when Verna Oller left her home of 73 years and moved a few miles away to the Circle of Life Adult Family Homes she said, “No more Wall Street Journal.”  She was looking forward to a final and full-time retirement and that included backing away from her careful handling of her investments –  all five million dollars worth!  For more than twenty-five years she had followed ins and outs of her investments in each day’s newspaper.  She had decided to give that a permanent rest.

That lasted about two months and then she made arrangements to have the newspaper delivered once again.  By then the economic recession was fully upon us and though Verna stuck by her resolve to no longer manage her investments, she monitored them every day.  She shook her head as she watched her five million dollars dip well below the four million dollar level, observing that we were in too much debt and that “they” were “a bunch of crooks.”  Then, finally, things began to turn around.

Verna was hopeful that she would live to see her funds restored in full.  That was not to be but, according to her trustee, Guy Glenn, she lived long enough to see that her money was making significant gains.  “And remember,” he adds, “her money is still working.”

Long Beach said “NO” to Verna’s pool!

In the weeks and months ahead, the arrangements that Verna specified will be worked out.  One million “off the top” will go to local education:  $500,000 to the Ocean Beach Education Foundation and $500,000 to the Verna S. Oller Foundation to be used for student scholarships and teacher grants, the terms of which she carefully specified.  The rest of the legacy will be put into the Verna S. Oller Aquatic Foundation.  Verna’s first desire was that those funds be used to build a public swimming pool in Long Beach.

 “One of the unusual things about Verna,” according to Andrea Noonan, Circle of Life Director, “was that she never looked back.  I never heard her say she missed her home or wished things were different now.  She was always looking and planning for the future.”

Astoria Aquatic Center – What Verna wanted for Long Beach

Verna’s legacy goes far beyond her four and a half million dollars. What she leaves us is the memory of her huge heart, of her generosity far beyond what might seem possible, and her amazing humility.  She absolutely insisted that her secret be kept until her death – and that even then, she wanted there to be no fanfare about it.  She wanted no obituary, no funeral or memorial service, nothing special.  Just a swimming pool and some help for our schools.




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