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Life is big

Ray Maier is a man who made a difference
by: VERN UYETAKE In his quiet, caring, hard-working way, Ray Maier has made life better for many people in Lake Oswego and throughout the state, in part thanks to the work of an organization he helped found. On Friday, Maier will be honored for his community contributions over the past 47 years.

Let us now praise a really good man.

Ray Maier, who has made a difference in achieving affordable housing in Lake Oswego and beyond, will be honored at the 2 p.m. Friday dedication of Oakridge Park, a new apartment building serving seniors living on modest incomes. A community room will be named after Maier during the grand opening of the facility at 4255 Oakridge Road.

It is a much-deserved tribute.

'Ray is really an exceptional individual,' said Scott Bullard, a longtime friend of the Maier family who now serves on the board of Northwest Housing Alternatives, an organization Maier helped create. 'He quietly built a huge organization.'

How huge? NHA now has an $80 million portfolio and has built 1,500 housing units that give shelter to nearly 2,600 people.

'Ray has an incredible passion for service,' said Martha McLennan, executive director of NHA. 'He is a great leader. He has a great vision of service. He was always pushing our organization to do more.'

But Maier has no grandiose image of himself.

'This (honor) is quite a surprise to me,' he said. 'But I'm very pleased and respectful of their decision.'

Now more than 80 years old, Maier is taking life easier these days as a resident of an assisted-living center in Lake Oswego. For many years, though, he was a George Bailey ('It's a Wonderful Life') type of guy in this community, making other people's lives more wonderful for nearly half a century.

A native of Portland, Maier arrived in Lake Oswego in 1964 to become minister of the Lake Oswego United Church of Christ for the next 20 years. Meanwhile, he was active in other counseling and ministries, and was also a mover and shaker in the community, serving as president of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce.

There may not have been a busier house in Lake Oswego than that of Maier and his late wife, Miriam, a supervisor with the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Scott Bullard looks back with awe and affection.

'Kids were always all over the house,' he said. 'His wife was a social worker and there were always foster kids around. Ray was such a giving guy. I think he ended up giving everything away.

'There was never a family who took care of more people without any real thanks or credit that I know off.'

Kids were a specialty of the Maiers, especially their own four children - Andrea, David, Clarolyn and Joel - who all have remarkably diverse and interesting careers in religion, art, music and medicine. People would be wise to pay attention to Maier's philosophy of parenting.

'Our kids grew up in a home where we worshiped and served God,' Maier said. 'Life is not an accident. They were unique people, and we encouraged them to use the gifts that were given to them.

'Every person has the gift to serve God and other human beings. Life is big.'

Besides serving the young, Maier served all kinds of other people, especially people who needed homes. It was 1982 when he began discussing the need for affordable housing in Lake Oswego with a couple other community leaders. The result was Northwest Housing Alternatives, and perhaps the crowning achievement is the new Oakridge Park, one of the only low-income housing complexes in Lake Oswego. Northwest Housing Alternatives developed the apartments in partnership with Lake Grove Presbyterian Church.

Bullard pointed out that building Oakridge Park was a struggle, and for a while there was considerable controversy over having low-income housing in Lake Oswego.

Now, in economic times that have turned tough, nobody would doubt the need for Oakridge Park.

'There are 90 people on the waiting list to get in,' Bullard said. 'It's a wonderful way to help our older citizens.'

McLennan has an excellent way of appreciating Maier's achievement in Lake Oswego.

'There are 2,500 residents who can go home to a safe, comfortable residence every night,' she said.