George Waldemar Oja
1924 – 2022
George Waldemar Oja passed away on January 18, 2022, after a short illness. He was born in rural Maine on February 17, 1924, to Finnish immigrants Valentin and Tynne Oja. It was a difficult childhood. The family dealt with continuing poverty, losing their home and all their belongings to a fire when George was 10 years old. His mother suffered from mental illness and with his father often away at logging camps, he was “farmed out” as a toddler for extended periods.
From an early age, George was a hard worker. Many of his childhood summers were spent as a farmhand, working dawn until dusk. With the advent of World War II, George enlisted in the Navy where he sailed with the destroyer escort ships. He had a very mathematical mind and was put in charge of the calibration instruments.
Following his honorable discharge, he enrolled at Purdue University in Indiana and obtained an engineering degree. He took a job with the Chrysler Corporation in Michigan. It was there he met the love of his life, Patricia Langford. They married in June of 1953.
Patricia suffered from bouts of asthma and they moved the family, which now included two children, to California in 1956 for a drier climate. George took a job with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. George and Patricia had two more children while living in Livermore. A series of layoffs necessitated job searches and changes, ultimately landing the family in Yorba Linda, California. A talented engineer, George designed and built the family home which sat above the Yorba Linda Reservoir.
Rarely known to take a day off and relax, he took a weekend job installing draperies for a local woman, who fabricated them in her home shop, which also employed Patricia as one of the seamstresses. Family vacations were always spent at the Bass Lake cabin on property they had acquired after moving to California. True to his nature, George spent these vacations working on the cabin which he designed and built single-handedly and as a result it was many years in the making.
After his retirement at the age of 63, George and Patricia moved permanently to Bass Lake. Patricia was diagnosed with lung disease in 2000 and passed away in 2010. George was a loving caregiver to her in the last years of her life.
At the age of 92, George took a short walk to view Angel Falls and fell 60 feet down an embankment. His rescue happened 3 hours later when passing hikers heard his cries for help, requiring closing down the highway for a time and dropping a rescue basket to helicopter him out. Amazingly, he escaped with bruises, scrapes, broken ribs, and two fractured vertebrae from which he fully recovered, proof that his nickname, “Iron Man,” was well deserved.
He spent his last years at Bass Lake with loving caregivers, including his children who visited frequently. He never had to leave his home and maintained as much independence as possible.
George is survived by four children, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. He will live on in our thoughts and in our hearts.
Any donations can be made to:
The Cat House on the Kings, 7120 S. Kings River Rd., Parlier, CA 93648.