Machinist left nearly $10 million to OMSI, Planned Parenthood
by: COURTESY OF JULIE CIELOHA, Julie Cieloha shows off some of the woodcarvings made by friend James “JP” McDole. McDole left his carvings to Cieloha and other friends when he died in 2004.

James “JP” McDole lived a quiet life in Portland’s Burlingame neighborhood and never sought attention. A former machinist at Hyster Co., McDole enjoyed cartooning, woodcarving, painting and dabbling in the stock market. And when he died, he left a nearly $10 million legacy that bolstered two prominent Portland nonprofits: the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and Planned Parenthood of Columbia/Willamette. McDole’s $4.6 million bequest to OMSI, previously depicted as anonymous, helped the science museum retire much of its construction debt and match a series of contributions from the state and other donors. Payments on the debt had dragged down OMSI’s operating funds after a 1996 flood forced it to close down several months. “I didn’t know him, and wish I had,” OMSI Chief Executive Officer Nancy Stueber said of McDole. After the Oregon Legislature granted the final $1.6 million in February to match McDole’s donation, OMSI’s construction debt dipped to a manageable $5.5 million, down from $14.7 million in the last year, Stueber said. McDole’s nearly $5 million bequest to Planned Parenthood almost doubled the family planning group’s endowment, said David Greenberg, chief executive officer of the Portland group. Earnings on the endowment, which now stands at $11 million, helps pay for Planned Parenthood programs, but most of the money stays in reserves. “We did not know we were in his will, so it came as a wonderful surprise to us,” Greenberg said. Julie Cieloha lived a few doors down from McDole and became a close friend. Later, he named her as personal representative of his estate. “He had no family; he had lots of friends,” Cieloha said. “He would go around the neighborhood and help people trim the roses,” she said. “He would walk the neighborhood cleaning the storm drains.” If something broke around his house, he’d fix it himself. If the elbows wore out on his shirt, he’d patch them. “Everything he did was incredibly modest,” Cieloha said. McDole never married, she said, but cared for his mother until she went into a nursing home. “I think his mother taught him to buy stocks, and then he did it himself.” McDole was no gambler, sticking with a conservative stock portfolio, she said. He relied on his own wits instead of a financial adviser. He checked his stocks every day, inputting information on his typewriter. McDole managed to retire from Hyster, a local forklift manufacturer, in his 50s, and lived off his investments after that, Cieloha said. By the time he died in 2004 at age 79, the value of those investments had mushroomed. There’s no record of McDole being an active volunteer at OMSI or Planned Parenthood, and it’s not totally clear why he chose those two organizations to support. But he became an OMSI member in 1991, and started contributing to Planned Parenthood in 1985. Cieloha recalls McDole talking fondly about a clock at OMSI, and thinks he may have done some machinist work for the science museum. Stueber pieced together what little information was known about McDole when his surprise donation arrived in 2006. “He really had some difficult times in school, and loved the fact that you come to OMSI and do experiments and some hands-on learning,” Stueber said. McDole’s annual donations to Planned Parenthood started small in 1985, but soon grew. “He fairly quickly became one of our major donors, $1,000 and up,” Greenberg said. That made him a member of the organization’s Margaret Sanger Society, named for the Planned Parenthood founder. McDole also befriended the group’s former development director, Judy Albert. “He was very interested in helping Planned Parenthood because we helped women become independent,” Greenberg said. McDole never got much public recognition for his contributions, and preferred to remain anonymous, Cieloha said. After he died, it took a couple years for the estate to be fully settled, and there was scant publicity about his legacy to OMSI and Planned Parenthood. OMSI staged a small exhibit of some of his woodcarvings. McDole, a Navy veteran who served in Saipan during World War II, asked that his ashes be buried at sea. McDole left his carved canes to veterans getting treated at the Portland VA Medical Center. Some of his other woodcarvings went to Cieloha and other friends. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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