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Oakley Comstock Goodner ’53

September 27, 2016, in Lopez Island, Washington.

Oakley was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and grew up in Southern California, dividing time between her mother’s home in Pasadena and her father’s in the Ojai Valley. Her mother, Helen Evans Brown, remarried and became a renowned cookbook author and authority on the West Coast food scene of the ’50s and ’60s. Oakley benefited from this, becoming an accomplished cook in her own right and enjoying a wide circle of friends in the food world, including James Beard.

After graduating from a private girls’ high school in Azusa, Oakley entered Reed College, where she met her future husband Charles (Joe) Goodner ’51, who was entering his junior year. She was an outstanding student, but elected to leave the school following Joe’s graduation. They were married in Pasadena in 1951 and moved that summer to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Joe entered medical school and Oakley taught sixth grade in a private girls’ school. They moved to Boston, where Joe finished training as an academic endocrinologist. While in Boston, Oakley had two children, Philip and Gretchen. The family followed Joe to Germany, where he served in the U.S. Air Force, and a second daughter, Stephanie, was born while they were in Germany.

In 1962, Joe joined the medical school faculty stationed at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. They made their home in Kirkland, where Oakley became a member of the board of the Lake Washington School District, serving several terms including as board president.

In the late ’60s, she became a realtor and later a real estate broker. She rose rapidly in the profession and went on to manage major offices, first for John L. Scott and then for the Coldwell Banker Bain agency.

Her daughter Gretchen died of acute myelocytic leukemia in 1989. The family was devastated, and within two years she and Joe both opted to retire and begin a new adventure by selling their home on Lake Washington and moving to Lopez Island.

Oakley had always wanted to live on a farm, so with the help of their son, Philip, they created a working sheep operation after purchasing an old farm property on Lopez Sound. It provided an excuse for Oakley to train border collies, and she had a series of them to help with the raising of the purebred Romney sheep, which gave her great joy. Another source of joy was becoming an accomplished birder.

In the late ’90s, she developed a chronic, low-grade malignancy of the bone marrow called myelofibrosis. This was not greatly limiting until her last two to three years, when it required more frequent transfusions to maintain her red blood cell level. She was survived by her son, Philip, her daughter, Stephanie, and her husband, Joe, who died in July of 2018. 

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2018

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