C. Oliver (Ollie) Iselin III, a native of Middleburg who was an All-American rower when he captained the Harvard crew team and later served for more than 20 years in the CIA in posts in north and west Africa, died at his home on Oct. 10 from congestive heart failure. He was 90.
Mr. Iselin joined the agency in 1951 shortly after he graduated from Harvard. He was given a medical discharge from the agency in 1973 when he was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 45. He retired from government service, eventually returning to his farm in Middleburg and later went into a complete remission.
Mr. Iselin became an accomplished polo player when he was stationed in Tangier, Morocco from 1954-1960 and continued to play the sport after leaving the CIA, competing locally and abroad.
Mr. Iselin was born in Pittsburgh on Sept. 5, 1927, the son of C. Oliver Iselin Jr. and Elizabeth Brown Iselin, a member of the first graduating class of Foxcroft School in Middleburg and a co-founder of Middleburg’s Hill School.
Mr. Iselin’s grandfather, banker, and philanthropist C. Oliver Iselin, was considered the pre-eminent American yachtsmen of his time, participating in and winning six consecutive America’s Cup races in 1887, 1893, 1895, 1899, 1901 and 1903.
Mr. Iselin grew up on his parents’ Middleburg farm and lived there for another 38 years after their deaths in the late 1970s. He attended The Hill School in Middleburg, St. Albans in Washington, D.C. and graduated from St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass. in 1945. While at St. Mark’s, he also attended Foxcroft for six weeks when a measles epidemic closed down St. Mark’s. He was the first male student to attend Foxcroft, an all-girls school then and now.
He was in the class of 1949 at Harvard but graduated in 1951 after spending two years in the U.S. Army before returning to Cambridge to earn his degree. He was a member of the Porcellian Club and the Harvard Lampoon. He was captain and named an All-American rower for the Harvard crew team that won the Grand Challenge Cup at the prestigious Royal Henley Regatta in England in 1950.
He was married to the former Julie Thayer (Dody Vehr) in 1953. They lived in Georgetown, Great Falls and later purchased a farm in Unison, Virginia. They divorced in 1978 and Mr. Iselin later married Mary Sprague (“Swannie”) Cunningham. They lived at Wolver Hill Farm in Middleburg where Mr. Iselin grew up, successfully breeding, selling and racing thoroughbred horses, farming cattle and growing crops.
He was an avid sportsman and he and “Swannie” owned a trout stream and camp in the Catoctin mountains for many years known as “Otter Valley.” They both enjoyed fly fishing, shooting sports, horse racing, tennis and traveling.
Mr. Iselin was on the board of directors of the Middleburg Bank for many years, succeeding his father. He also was on the board of Middleburg’s Sharon Cemetery and a member of the Ristigouche Salmon Club and Middleburg Tennis Club.
He was a wonderful father, grandfather, and employer and respected and loved by many, a true gentleman in every sense of the word.
Mr. Iselin is survived by his wife, his daughter, Julie Iselin Diehl, of Middleburg, a sister, Barbara Sears, 96, of Hamilton, Mass., and two grandsons, Daniel Iselin Malone of Denver, Colorado and Malcolm Thayer Malone of Bozeman, Montana, and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by a sister, Nancy Marburg of Lutherville, Maryland.