“Living not by words, but by faithful service and sacrifice.”
Allison Logan Belcher is a lifelong activist for people, justice and peace. Born in Quincy, Massachusetts January 25, 1931, she has lived largely in Oregon after moving many times while her father served in World War II. She worked throughout college and graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Arts, Science. She then studied criminology at the London School of Economics, volunteered to help repair Holland’s broken dikes, and studied social work at the University of Chicago before starting her working career.
At Oregon State University, Allison pursued many interests including the International Club, Student Senate, Debate & Extemporaneous Speech, Episcopal Canterbury Club, and The Mountaineering Club. Through these activities she became more aware of social issues and her abilities to help others. Each of her subsequent careers has focused on human services as a County Court Juvenile Councilor, teaching at two schools, and placing young people in foster homes for the Oregon Children’s Services. Then in 1984, Allison adapted her childhood dream of being a missionary doctor by returning to school to become a nurse. She has since felt close and helpful to many Medicaid clients residing in foster homes, and volunteered in hurricane-stricken Nicaragua at a rural clinic.
In 1961 Allison married Bob Belcher eight months after meeting him at the Mazama Club Climbing School. They loved to travel, and left three years later on an 18-month trip to Asia, the Middle East and eventually London where Bob worked as an architect and daughter, Rachel Ann was born. Returning to Portland, their family grew with Sarah Emily, David Bruce and Michael Tige. It also became an extended family with many Godchildren and other youngsters who sometimes stayed for months. Allison was now an at-home mother and classroom volunteer for each child.
Allison and Bob soon joined St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church, a strong African-American parish, to help their family better understand and respect all members of our multi-cultural society. A faithful communicant since 1967, Allison has served St. Philip as teacher, treasurer, pianist and a St. Philip delegate to the Conference on Afro-Anglicanism in Cape Town, South Africa where she met Bishop Desmond Tutu.
She has engaged in many community and political activities including board director for the Urban League and Metropolitan Family Services, numerous election campaigns, and the Vietnam peace movement. She was chair of the Multnomah Democratic Party and State Delegate to the 1976 National Democratic Party Convention. She was also first chairwoman of the Mazama Climbing Committee and served on the Portland Development Commission for two terms where she advocated equal opportunity for minority contractors and women, historic building preservation, and urban parks.
When her son, David, developed severe epilepsy, Allison joined family support groups, was appointed to the State Developmental Disabilities Council, and was elected to the Board of Epilepsy to expand resources for handicapped children. She participates today as a school volunteer and a board member for both BRAINet (part of the OHSU Neurological Research Institute) and the Willamette View Retirement Center where she seeks more staff and resident diversity.
Portland’s renowned Tom McCall Waterfront Park came about after Allison helped found Riverfront for People with Bob and friend, Jim Howell. Their advocacy group persuaded 52 other Portland civic organizations to speak at a critical public hearing. They won overwhelming support for Portland’s “front yard” park on the Willamette River instead of a six-lane highway.
Allison’s parents, teachers, and the sad loss of a dear, younger friend greatly influenced her beliefs about helping others and making the world better. Emily and Vic Logan’s Judaic-Christian values, personal commitment and civic involvement inspired their daughters to care about people and a more just society. Emily taught Allison from her considerable Biblical knowledge, and “our house always had sandwiches for unemployed men during the Depression.” Her parents taught open-mindedness toward Germans and Japanese, even in the midst of war. She traces her “never give up” attitude to her father’s 10 year pursuit of a PhD Chemistry while working on a modest teacher’s salary.
Exceptional teachers urged Allison to be independent and develop different views from theirs. Over time, she has moved past her parents’ more protective views in her convictions about equality for women in jobs, pay, marriage and sports.
The death of Jim Berge, Allison’s young mountaineering student and friend, in the Vietnam War was a life-defining moment in her faith. She re-dedicated herself to peace activities on his behalf, and opposes America’s over reliance on military power: “I didn’t raise my sons to kill another mother’s sons”.
In life’s suffering through war, disaster and human mistreatment, Allison finds comfort in the deep rituals, faith and love of her church community. Her spiritual anchors are the Sermon of the Mountain and, especially, “love your neighbor.” She exemplifies living not by words that are inadequate, but by faithful service and sacrifice so that others may live more abundantly. The photograph of Allison was taken in 2006.
Allison and I have been friends since 1957 when we were roommates and in our middle 20’s. Though we took different paths in life, both personally and professionally, we have remained extremely close and probably complement one another because of our different family backgrounds and lifestyle choices. Allison married and raised her family. I chose life overseas for seven years, but we both eventually chose to live in Portland in the Irvington neighborhood.
We have celebrated many joyous moments and some deep sadness. But the quality of Allison’s personality that impresses me most is her desire, and perhaps need to help the “underdog”. She also has indefatigable energy, which both amazes and annoys me. I cannot match her energy.
On the personal level, for me, she has been my rock, when I have had serious illnesses. All in all, she has been a true and loyal friend.
Written by Lucille Ora French