Eugene Arthur Sayler
1945 - 2020
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Eugene Arthur Sayler
May 30, 1945 - Dec. 22, 2020
Eugene Arthur Sayler passed away Dec. 22, 2020 after a long, valiant battle with cancer.
He was born in Devil's Lake, N.D., May 30, 1945. Gene's family moved to Portland, Ore., when he was 1 year old. Gene's dad, Art, and uncle, Richard, went into the restaurant business together in 1946 buying the Old Country Kitchen in East Portland. Initially, the restaurant served chicken, steak and rabbit, but after a few years they revamped their menu to focus on steaks by the ounce, which featured the well-known 72 oz. steak challenge.
Gene attended Binnsmead Grade School, Madison High School and University of Oregon graduating with a degree in Economics in 1967 and joined Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He was commissioned an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve after completing training at Officers' Candidate School in Newport, R.I., and then served in Vietnam on the USS Guadalupe. He was honorably discharged a lieutenant (JG) in 1969. The sudden death of his uncle chose his next path from which he never deviated. He became manager of Sayler's Old Country Kitchen, and then an owner after the death of his own father in 1977.
The Old Country Kitchen had become a popular East Portland eatery when it was devastated by a fire in 1978. With the help and hard work of many dedicated friends, it was rebuilt within six months. By the end of 1979 it set a new record of 357,000 diners in one year. The success of the original location propelled Gene to build a second Sayler's OCK in 1983 in Beaverton. With Gene in charge, Sayler's OCK was named one of the Top 100 Restaurants in the U.S. by Restaurants and Institution Magazine in 1986. The "West Side" was in business for 23 years, and closed in 2005.
He served on the Oregon Restaurant Board and as President in the 80's and was selected Oregon Restauranter of the Year in 1987. He was elected to the National Restaurant Board from 1990-1999. Gene also was an Oregon State Representative from 1987-1991 serving East Portland.
Gene was very proud of the OCK, and it was one of the most important things in his life. He went there every day until he retired, and then most days when he was in town until his death. The restaurant is still operating during these difficult times under Gene's sons, David and Bryan Sayler.
Gene and his wife, Mary, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August, also loved to travel. They had been to Europe several times, Australia, Canada, many parts of the U.S., Vietnam, Israel, Africa and his last trip to Egypt in 2019. But some of his favorite moments were spent closer to home in Sunriver, Ore., where he and his family would spend time every year for decades. His kids will always cherish the memories of him teaching them how to play poker, blackjack and monopoly, taking them biking and skiing, and to the "Sun Spot" for a coke and fries after a day of swimming. He was able to golf last summer at Crosswater and Meadows courses even though his cancer had progressed and it was very difficult.
He enjoyed golf at Columbia Edgewater for many years with his good buddies and his time at PGA West in Palm Springs from 2000 - 2013. Retirement was spent golfing, enjoying time with family and friends and going to a beach house until his death. He loved good food and wine.
Gene is survived by his wife, Mary; children, David, Bryan (Janis), and Melissa (Laura); brother, Gerry; and sister, Judy. Also, granddaughters, Vivian, Carys, and Charley; grandson, Benjamin; and his beloved companion Rico the Bulldog.
A memorial service has already been held at Riverview Cemetery with a Naval sendoff. A celebration of life will be held in 2021 when all his many friends can gather safely.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Providence Cancer Institute, Boy Scouts of America and the Salvation Army.
Please sign the online guest book at www.oregonlive.com/obits

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Oregonian from Jan. 12 to Jan. 17, 2021.
Memories & Condolences
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23 entries
January 18, 2021
My friend. Gene. I was his meat purveyor Iverson Meat Company for many years play golf with him many of times such great memories put tears to my heart he was a wonderful man he knew how to run the business and we all know Food Service business is very hard he had his head on right that's one thing I really respected of him had many great times in conversations about meet restaurant and of course golf I love the guy I will miss him dearly sincerely Ron Iverson rest in peace my friendpop
Ron Iverson
Friend
January 18, 2021
Some of my best high school memories center around Gene. Wether it was skiing on Mt Hood or our trips to Sun Valley we always had a great time. I will always remember teaching him how to cook a steak at the Cristiana Lodge at Sun Valley. Gene was a good friend whom I shall miss. Sandy and I send our best to Mary and the entire Sayler family.
Richard Visse
Friend
January 18, 2021
My sincerest condolences to Mary and the entire family on Gene's passing. He was a very good businessman but an even better person, always treating me with utmost respect and friendliness. May your loving memories of and with him give you all comfort during this very difficult time.

Thanks for everything Gene and rest in peace - you'll be missed.
Jason Chin
Friend
January 18, 2021
Gene and I served in the Legislature together, and thought we were on "opposite sides of the aisle" I found him to be open to ideas and thoughtful of differing points of view. At some point i found myself in a discussion with him on a fairly minor issue and we both were sticking to our guns. Finally, he said to me; "Tell you what, you come up to my restaurant and if you can eat one of my 72 ounce steaks and I will, give you your vote." Unfortunately, i was never able to do that whihc was a good thing because I seriously doubt I could have eaten 72 ounces of steak. But I was able to get into the OCK on several occasions and he was always the congenial host. Gene was a fine gentleman and made a lasting contribution to his community and to the state. my condolences to the family.
Mike Burton
Friend
January 18, 2021
My thoughts and prayers to the family. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I did not know Mr Saylor very well, but have very fond memories spending time with his family and especially Melissa as we were growing up.
Megan Cooper (Pfaender)
Acquaintance
January 18, 2021
I was always amazed to see Gene playing golf at Columbia Edgewater when I knew he was not feeling well due to his cancer. What a stalwart soldier! My golf group had a couple of wonderful dinners at Sayler's (thank you, Mary) and we LOVED it. As we walked into the restaurant, it was always jam-packed with customers and it was hard to find a parking spot in Sayler's lot. We will miss seeing Gene at Columbia Edgewater.
Ralph and Karen Johnson
Friend
January 18, 2021
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
michael boyd
Family
January 17, 2021
I’m sorry to hear of the passing. I remember always cooking his food once a week when I worked there & always making it with my own twist on it! He always thought it’s was great every time . He will truly be missed by the community.
Elijah A Sims IV
Coworker
January 17, 2021
Great boss, great person. I am so glad I was able to meet Gene.
Larry Lamb
January 17, 2021
I took care of Rico at LexiDog for years And also survey Eugene Lunch at Subway ! He was one of the kindest men to me and all of the staff! Rico is a sweet souls just like his family ! Rest In Peace you will be miss and you are loved !
Nancie Monaghan
Friend
January 17, 2021
In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will love you and miss you always. Gene was friendly to a everyone. The Lawler family has been a customer for over 50 years.
Randy Lawler
Acquaintance
January 17, 2021
I had the pleasure of working at Saylers old country kitchen for 19 years.
I have never had a better job in all my 66 years.
I have to say Gene & His two sons David & Bryan ran a great restaurant.
They made it a family restaurant. The patrons as well as the employees were all one big happy family
Gene gave it a good fight all the way to the end.
He didn't let cancer get him down.
He always came in on Thursday nights with his family for dinner and ALWAYS HAD A SMILE ON HIS FACE!
He always had time to say hello to his employees.
He will be very much missed by all.
Diana Barschak
Diana Barschak
Friend
January 17, 2021
Rest In Peace Gene. I loved working for you for many years at OCK in the 90's. It was one of my favorite jobs. Met many friends and still keep in touch with some to this day. You will be missed.
Beth Schilling
Coworker
January 17, 2021
I will always appteciate the kindness Gene and his family showed me and my Husband. They were there for me when my husband passed of cancer. He was such a kind and thoughful man. You will truly be missed. Say hi to Al for me. Live, Nancy.
Nancy McBee
Friend
January 17, 2021
Ive known Gene for well over 50 years. I enjoyed his friendship and will miss our periodic chats.
Robb Siegenthaler
Friend
January 17, 2021
Mary, I’m so very sorry hear of the struggle with cancer and then death of your husband. He certainly has left a legacy of community service and a life well-lived. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
Linda Dee Maag Feik
Friend
January 17, 2021
We will always hold Gene in our hearts. He was a good friend to everyone. We wish you peace and love in your memories of Gene.
Carol Sloan
Friend
January 17, 2021
Gene was one of the all time great human beings. We stayed close all the years .... I will miss him dearly.
Joe Rinella
Friend
January 14, 2021
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.sorry to hear about Genes passing. I started working there as a waitress in 1967 until 1992 ,so I worked with all the owners. I have many Happy Memories of my time working in Sayler’s Old Country Kitchen. It’s still the best Steak House in town.
Georgia Suiter
Coworker
January 14, 2021
I was very saddened to read this. I worked with Gene and his sons for over 30 years and was always very fond him. He was a success story, hard worker, fair and honest man. We should all be so lucky to know a man like him. My deepest condolences to the family
Richard Byrd
Acquaintance
January 14, 2021
Gene and I shared time together starting with Binnsmead Grade School. His heart was always centered on the Old Country Kitchen and his family.Someone as special as Gene Saylor can never be forgotten.
Carol Gardner
Friend
January 13, 2021
So sad. I hope everyone is doing well.
Bruce Stayner
January 13, 2021
He was a man that can never be replaced.
Mrs Jimmy Patton
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