Chaplain Preston Cumming Oliver, U.S. Navy (Ret.), died in his sleep at Paul Spring Retirement Community in Alexandria, Virginia, on February 1, 2022; he was nearly 100 years of age.
Chaplain Oliver is survived by his three children: Laurie (Chet) Hansen, of Mount Angel, Oregon; John (Tish) Oliver, of Alexandria, Virginia; and Preston (Lorie) Oliver II, of Salem, Oregon. He also had a total of 33 much cherished grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wife and beloved mother of his children, Mary Adams Oliver, preceded him in death in 2010.
Preston Oliver was born on June 2, 1922, in Wilmington, North Carolina, the younger son of four children born to David Smith Oliver and Virginia Taylor Oliver. His childhood home was at 1906 Market Street in Wilmington. He was a long- time congregant at St. Andrews Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1416 Market Street, and loved to spend time in coastal Carolina, swimming or bodysurfing at Wrightsville Beach or fishing on the ocean. He graduated from New Hanover High School in 1939, and then from Davidson College in 1943. Always physically fit, he was the captain of the Davidson College varsity team in his senior year.
Following college, Preston Oliver immediately applied for a commission in the U.S. Navy. After Officer Candidate School at Columbia University and commissioning, he trained and then served with the “beach jumpers,” an elite unit specializing in tactical deception. Deployed to the western Pacific, his unit helped to mislead the Japanese occupiers of the Philippine Islands as to where the American invasion would take place, helping to ensure the success of the campaign and saving the lives of many soldiers, Marines, and civilians. He next served in the Okinawa campaign and was preparing to support the planned invasion of the Japanese main islands.
After World War II, Preston Oliver felt God’s call to become a Presbyterian minister. He chose to attend Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. There he met his wife, Mary, who was studying at the Assembly’s Training School (now the Presbyterian School of Christian Education) just across Brook Road from the Seminary.
Recalled as a naval reservist for the Korean War, Preston Oliver served on USS Mount McKinley (AGC-7), General McArthur’s amphibious command ship for the Inchon invasion. After the war, he completed his theological training and was accepted into the Navy’s chaplain corps, with initial training in Newport, RI. He served with distinction in various shipboard and shore assignments with the Navy and the Marine Corps in Okinawa, Camp Lejeune, and Vietnam. He retired from the naval service in 1972. The many things he did during retirement included serving as a Christian missionary in Japan, preaching in small churches, and traveling the world.
Chaplain Oliver arranged to donate his body to medical science; eventually his final remains will be buried in the Oliver Family plot at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, NC. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to St. Andrews Covenant Presbyterian Church, or on-line to Covenant House at covenanthouse.org. Covenant House is a Christian organization dedicated to providing a hopeful, positive future to young people facing homelessness and survivors of trafficking through unconditional love, support, safety, and absolute respect so that they might overcome adversity and thrive.