Oz Grimes, Korean War Veteran Turned Peace Activist, Dies at 87

Oz Grimes and his pup, Sophia. (Kathy Grimes Diefenbach)

Once Oz and Beth Grimes of Petaluma reached the grandparent stage they'd reminisce about their wedding beneath the redwoods, the years they worked mere feet apart at a lumber store, the miles they swam at the YMCA and all the times they were arrested together.

Moved to activism by their outrage at the Vietnam War, the Grimeses became known for their willingness to put themselves on the line for their convictions and to open their wallets for them.

Following the death of Beth Grimes in 2011, her husband continued to share his modest income with organizations such as Veterans for Peace, Petaluma's Committee on the Shelterless and the eyesight charity, the Seva Foundation.

Oz Grimes, 87, died April 8 after ingesting a lethal mixture of drugs he'd obtained legally through the state law -- End of Life Option Act -- that legalized aid in dying for people with terminal illnesses.

He was named Osborne Gurnett Grimes when he was born Aug. 22, 1931, in Oakland.

His father died about the time he started school.

Grimes' family moved later from Piedmont to San Francisco, where he indulged his love of swimming in the saltwater of Fleishhacker Pool.

Not long after graduation from Washington High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. His daughters, Karen Grimes Schuler of San Jose and Kathy Diefenbach of Morgan Hill, said he was initially turned down because he was found to have a heart murmur, but he found a doctor willing to say he was OK for military service.

Grimes spent a year in combat during the Korean War. He said he discovered long afterward that he was living with the disabling effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

As a young war veteran, he went to work as a forester with the U.S. Forest Service, then in retail lumber sales. He praised the day he met Beth Sutton, who worked in the early 1950s at a bank in San Francisco. They married in 1956 and used Oz Grimes' GI Bill benefits to buy a home in Daly City.

"They had one of those little houses on Skyline Drive," Schuler said.

Her parents' politics were fairly middle-of-the-road until they felt compelled to join protests against the war in Vietnam. That started their long history of activism.

"My mom used to celebrate Roe v. Wade Day every January," Diefenbach said.

Beth and Oz Grimes were arrested several times while staging protests, blockades, sit-ins and other actions in resistance to the Contra War in Nicaragua, nuclear energy, arms sales and challenges to abortion rights.

"I was the first man arrested at the Bohemian Grove," Oz Grimes said shortly before his death.

He joined and provided financial support to efforts by Camp Meeker activist Mary Moore to expose what she regarded as abuses of power within the Bohemian Club of San Francisco's annual encampment near Monte Rio.

Grimes, Moore said Tuesday, "was not only somebody who helped finance us, but he also went to jail with us."

Grimes volunteered as well to escort, and if necessary, defend women entering or leaving family planning clinics.

He and his late wife moved to Petaluma in 1969. They retired from Sausalito's Interbay Lumber Co., where he worked as manager and she as bookkeeper, in the early 1990s.

This article is written by Chris Smith from The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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