Vic Atiyeh, 91, Oregon’s 32nd governor died July 20th, 2014 at Portland’s Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. He was surrounded by many family members, including his wife Dolores Atiyeh, son Tom Atiyeh, daughter-in-law Leslie Atiyeh, daughter Suzanne Atiyeh and his five grandchildren. Also present was the former governor’s brother Ed Atiyeh, his wife Karen, as well as a nephew and nieces.
Gov. Atiyeh celebrated his 91st birthday on February 20th of this year and 70th wedding anniversary in July. He served as Oregon’s governor from 1979 to 1987.
Governor Atiyeh served two terms as governor. After leaving office in 1987 he led an active life as an international trade consultant, going to work at his downtown Portland office daily. It was only within the last few months that he closed this office. He was generally in good health, but he did suffer a mild heart attack on August 30, 2005 followed by quadruple bypass surgery.
“Governor Atiyeh was first a gentleman, then a keen businessman and finally a statesman for Oregon” said Leslie Atiyeh, president of Atiyeh International, Ltd.
“He approached the responsibility of Oregon Governor like he was the chief executive officer of the state’s largest enterprise,” said Atiyeh’s former chief of staff Gerry Thompson. “Governor Atiyeh was an involved leader, but one who gave agency heads a lot of latitude to come up with creative solutions to difficult problems. He was quick to give credit to others, even when he deserved it himself.”
Atiyeh was governor during some of the worst economic times for Oregon since the Depression. He called a record number of special legislative sessions, most to deal with budget and revenue issues.
Often viewed as the political underdog, Atiyeh served 28 years in elective positions, winning 19 of 20 elections. As a Republican in the Oregon House and Senate from 1959 to 1979 he was always in the minority party. As governor for eight years he worked with Democratic majorities in both houses.
A major emphasis for Gov. Atiyeh was economic development, especially international trade. He was dubbed “Trader Vic” for his many trade missions seeking investments in Oregon from international companies. He led a total of 20 international business trade missions, mostly to the Far East and Middle East. His son Tom participated in the 1984 trade mission to People’s Republic of China and to the Middle East including a visit to the Atiyeh home village of Amar el Husn in Syria. During his time in office Oregon gained significant investments from companies such as NEC, Fujitsu America, Seiko Epson and others
Syrian relatives have reported the news of Governor Atiyeh is extensively reported in the Lebanese news. In addition, the family in Amar el Husn held a two-day celebration of life in honor of their most successful son, inviting the whole village. Governor Atiyeh’s first cousins were Fred and Phil Atiyeh, past presidents of Oriental Rug Importers Association in New York.
Victor George Atiyeh [ah-TEE-ah] was born in Portland, Oregon on February 20, 1923 to Syrian immigrant parents George and Linda Asly Atiyeh. After graduating from Washington High School, he attended the University of Oregon where he was an active member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and played guard for the Duck football team.
Atiyeh married Dolores Hewitt on July 5, 1944. In that same year his father died, and at age 21, Vic Atiyeh took over the family business, Atiyeh Brothers rug and carpet store. He was president and actively involved in the business for 35 years. Once he left office in 1987, he became Atiyeh International, Ltd.’s Board Chairman.
He is survived by his immediate family, wife Dolores, son Tom Atiyeh (wife Leslie) and Suzanne Atiyeh, and five grandchildren. A private family funeral service took place at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Portland on Friday July 25th. A state memorial event will take place September 3rd in Salem at the Oregon Capitol. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the Governor Victor Atiyeh Collection at Pacific University, 2043 College Way, Forest Grove, OR 97116