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Former Lathrop mayor Robert K. Oliver dies
Robert K. Oliver

LATHROP – Former Lathrop Council member and mayor Robert K. Oliver has died.

His death was reported by Council member Sonny Dhaliwal late Wednesday night.

“I am reporting with great sadness that former council member Robert Oliver passed away last weekend,” was the text sent by Dhaliwal.

 “I thank Mr. Oliver for his contributions to the city of Lathrop and its citizens. He will be dearly missed,” Dhaliwal commented about his longtime council colleague.

According to the obituary notice from Ted Mayr Funeral Home in Ventura, Calif., which is in charge of the funeral arrangements, the retired minister died on Saturday, Sept. 3, due to complications from surgery. He was 80 years old.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Ventura Church of Christ.

When he announced his retirement to the council in March 2010 and his eventual move to Ventura to be near family, Oliver said he became involved in council government for nearly two decades because he believed that “service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy.” The quote came from the brief speech he gave after being presented with a certificate of recognition from then-mayor Kristy Sayles at the last meeting he attended as a councilman on March 15, 2010. He was especially recognized for his 500-plus meeting attendance in various capacities including that of mayor, council member and planning commissioner. One of his last actions as a member of the council was to vote on an agenda item that helped pare off $111,000 from the city’s $1.5 million budget deficit at that time. Dhaliwal said that as a public servant, Oliver made “a lot of sacrifices” that many people did not know about.

Oliver served as Lathrop mayor at one time when he was appointed to fill the position left vacant when Darlene Hill resigned from her post in 1993.

In an interview in 2006, Oliver said he has had “many exciting and worthwhile projects that I have studied and voted on,” but three of them stood out. One of them was Lathrop’s participation in the $126 million South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s surface water project that also involves the cities of Manteca, Escalon and Tracy.

“This is a valuable supplement to the water from city wells, reduces the amount of water pumped from these wells, and returns a significant amount of water to the underlying aquifer,” he said.

Another project that stood out for him was the area’s most ambitious project, the 10-square-mile River Islands at Lathrop development. When the Stewart Tract area was annexed to the city to accommodate River Islands which was then known as Gold Rush City, the Local Area Formation Commission’s action made Lathrop the second-largest city in land area in San Joaquin County.

“I have worked on this from the days of Gold Rush City, through Califia, and now River Islands. This will be a very unique part of the city, with a wide mix of housing, commercial areas and parks,” Oliver said at that time.

Minister, teacher, pilot, musician

Born on Nov. 14, 1930 in Aberdeen, Idaho, as the youngest of four children, Oliver attended Freed-Hardeman College in Tennessee, Florida Christian College, and the University of Michigan where he earned his master’s degrees in History and the Bible. He taught history in high school while preaching part-time. Later, he became a preacher full time. He was the preacher at the Lathrop Baptist Church for many years, a job he held while serving on the city council and planning commission. He served as a preacher for 50 years.

During that period of time and during all his various jobs and community involvements, he learned to fly and eventually earned his pilot’s license. He also played the trombone and played with the Tracy Community Band for many years at many public events including the annual Lathrop Birthday Celebration on July 1.

He was preceded in death by wives Bonny with whom he was married for 25 years, and Ratha who was his wife for 20 years. He is survived by his wife of six years, Vivian; daughters Linda Jones and Sue Haller and her husband Tony, all of Edmond, OK; sons Jim and wife Lynn, and Gary and wife Terry, all of Ventura; 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.