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