Each night at a Mount Helix home, the neighborhood critters lined up for their dinner. Raccoons, skunks and opossums all waited for a bite from the generous hand of a British woman who brought her love for animals across the pond.

Her family tells us that Vera Oliphant, who died recently at the age of 84, had a soft spot for anything — and anyone — who needed help. She and her husband even took in a Polish soldier who ended up spending 45 years with them.

“She always asked me what I had rescued today,” her granddaughter said.

Our story about Oliphant is one in a series of obituaries that we’ve written this year in an effort to honor everyday people who lived extraordinary lives.

Adrian Florido, the reporter who wrote this story, was drawn in by a picture of Oliphant hugging a lion that appeared with her paid obituary in the U-T. “I wanted to know more,” Florido told me.

Now he does, and so do you. The lion photo, by the way, is one of several that appear with our story.

In other news:

  • New school district math scores came out yesterday, and San Diego’s are improving. We take a closer look.
  • Also, a parent and public affairs consultant is our Blogger of the Day, arguing that California should go for federal school stimulus money. This is the counterpoint to another guest blogger last week.  
  • Cuts might eliminate the job of a San Diego Police official who helps citizens oversee the department.
  • A federal appeals court today will hear the ACLU’s appeal in the Mt. Soledad cross case. The ACLU says the feds illegally acted to preserve the war memorial; a local federal judge ruled in favor of cross supporters, prompting the appeal.

    The cross has been tied up in court for about two decades, and more appeals are possible.

  • Our editorial cartoon takes a look at the Chargers and a one-way street.
  • Don’t step on his cape: Our Photo of the Day captures County Supervisor Greg Cox on the job. My Twitter followers suggested today’s trio of “super” photo soundtracks (by the Kinks, (Curtis Mayfield and 3 Doors Down).


  • The NYT has a remarkable story about a Mexican drug feud featuring a man “based in the San Diego suburbs” who “was running a renegade squad of kidnappers and hit men, fighting for a piece of the marijuana market.”
  • The county district attorney says her office’s boycott of a local judge isn’t personal. What is it, then? Shouldn’t the public know? Apparently not: the DA has adopted a trust-me approach.
  • Another death, this one in San Diego, has been linked to the Carlsbad self-help guru whose retreat in Arizona turned deadly. Reportedly, participants at a retreat here dressed as homeless people in downtown, and one jumped to her death at Horton Plaza. The guru’s company issued a statement denying any connection to the death. (ABC News)
  • CityBeat explores the status of an estimated $25,000 worth of confiscated marijuana now that its owner beat a rap. It also notes that SDG&E’s power-outage map had an outage yesterday (awkward!) and expands on its allegations of inaccurate reporting in a Watchdog Institute/U-T story about sex offenders. The institute stands by the story.

Finally, several people emailed me with the correct answer to yesterday’s Morning Report trivia query: Former Mayor Maureen O’Connor.

O’Connor dressed as a transient for a stint on city streets in 1989, accompanied by reporters and police officers who wore ragged clothes too. Mayor Mo, an advocate for the homeless, got plenty of ink here and across the country.

Our winner, the first to respond correctly, is historian Linda Canada of University City.

Several people recalled that ex-TV reporter Marti Emerald also went undercover with the homeless. Gosh, I wonder whatever happened to her?


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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