Peter Ozolins, of Roanoke, Virginia died in a tractor-trailer collision on October 2, 2019. He was 64 years old. 

Peter was a dedicated husband, father, uncle, friend, architect, professor, traveler, avid reader, and linguist. He lived in six countries and spoke five languages. Peter was an attentive student throughout his life, always eager to learn about the people and places he encountered. 

Together with Mary, his wife and “co-pilot” of 35 years, Peter designed and built a loving home, developed a homestead on their farm, and raised two daughters, Tiana and Marija. Mary and Peter grew up together in Minneapolis, Minnesota and later lived in Madagascar, Tanzania, and Kenya, where they were married, before settling in beautiful Southwest Virginia. Their daughters will continue to be inspired by Peter’s boundless curiosity and enthusiasm as they each pursue education, travel, and living in new places.

Peter operated his own architecture firm, Peter Ozolins Architect, for nearly twenty years before joining Hughes Associates in Roanoke in 2017. He received his PhD in Environmental Design and Planning from Virginia Tech. His work focused on sustainable and institutional design, including universities, hospitals, and other facilities, which he designed throughout the world. Many of his buildings adorn Blacksburg and the surrounding areas and are characterized by thoughtful, light-filled spaces.

Peter, a converted animal lover, could often be found with his dog Pepper perched on his lap. He was an irrepressible jokester with a quick wit and an easy smile. He and Mary were most easily located by the sounds of their laughter. 

Peter’s parents, Karlis and Sulamit, were refugees from Latvia and passed away many years ago. Peter was also preceded in death by daughter, Julia Agnes Ozolins; sister-in-law, Minda Bakken; brother-in-law, Leo Lisovskis; and mother-in-law, Ginger Bakken.

Peter dearly loved his sister and brother, Dina Lisovskis and Andrew (Laura); brothers-in-law, Mark, John (Liza), and Baheru (Ayalnesh); nieces and nephews, Imants (Vanessa, Maija), Karlis (Marlena), Megan (Tyler), Nick, Mateo, Meklit, and Abel; father-in-law Dr. Norman Bakken; son-in-law, Erik Stier; best friend from junior high, Joe Moses (Janet, Katie, Michael, Patrick); many cousins in Latvia, and all the wonderful friends involved in a “Boys Work Day” monthly productive gathering, book group, and from time living overseas, where friends become one’s family. He will be greatly missed by all of these loved ones and many more.

In memory of Peter, the family asks that donations be made to the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, I-81 Corridor Safety Project (

A memorial service and celebration of Peter’s life was held on Friday, October 11, at College Lutheran Church in Salem, Virginia. 
Posted by Leigh Williams on October 13, 2019

Back in 1992, Peter came over to our house while he was visiting his best friend Joe Moses. We were packing the contents of our house for our move to our first "real" jobs in Poughkeepsie, NY. Peter hardly knew us, but pitched right in, wheeling our old metal moving dolly with stacked boxes from the house to a enormous U-Haul. He began to call the dolly the "m-dolly," explaining that "m-" is the prefix for living things used in Swahili, and that dolls (toys, not wheeled carts) are often called "m-dollies" there. Peter wheeled that lively "m-dolly" back and forth to the truck all day long. The name has been with it ever since.
Peter made our dolly into a living thing and it's been that way for 27 years now.
Posted by Joe Moses on October 13, 2019
If I were feeling the way I feel today, I would call Peter.

He would remind me of the joys of my family and ask about Janet and Katie and Patrick.

He would remind me of the joys of his family, and I would ask about Mary and Marija and Tiana.

He would remind of the joys of our friendship and the power we shared in our ability to combine our energies and imaginations, such as the time the 56 Chevy wagon wouldn’t start on a cold winter morning, and how he drummed on the dashboard and I cranked the engine and we said, “Come on, baby, you can do it,” until it started up.

I would tell him about something stupid I’d done and he’d say oh, Joseph, what I did was much dumber and he’d tell me about it and I’d say, “Oh, yeah--that was way dumber.”

And he’d ask about my projects because he knew how much I liked to talk about them and I asked him about his projects because I knew what they meant to him.

I’d tell him I was stuck on a story I was writing and he would help me get unstuck.

At the end of our conversation I would say, “You’re a good man, Peter Ozolins” and he would say, “I love you so much, Joseph,” and I would say “I love you too, Peter.”

And he would say, “'Bye.”
Posted by Patricia Wright on October 11, 2019
So sad to hear of the tragic passing of Peter. I worked with Peter for nearly a decade in Madagascar. He designed and executed our beautiful Centre ValBio Research station, LovaBe Hall on the edge of Ranomafana National Park, near Fianarantsoa, our CVB outdoor classroon Pavilion, the driveway and the CVB entrance to the campus Peter was always a delight to work with. Ever patient, ever cheerful, his real desire was to make something useful and beautiful for Madagascar. His skills as an architect were evident, but beyond that he had extraordinary people skills. All of our team loved working with Peter. Madagascar is a challenging place, and Peter took all those challenges in stride and made things work. He understood Madagascar. He was kind and caring. We enjoy his building everyday and we at CVB will have a ceremony and plant a tree for Peter Ozolins a growing reminder of his time with us. My heart goes out to Peter's wife and children. So very sad to lose such a wonderful person.
Posted by Janet Philion on October 10, 2019
We're so fortunate to have met Peter and his family when they were in Minnesota last summer. Peter's life story is truly remarkable, and it's clear he left a lasting legacy--not only through his incredible children but by his loving impact on so many others around the world. May Peter's family and friends be comforted by the love and support of each other and by their rich memories of this very special person.
Posted by TRUMAN Capone on October 10, 2019
Faith and I have been fortunate to know Peter and Mary for many years. In this time I was extremely privileged to work on a number of design projects with Peter relating to the Arts and Education. Peter was amazing on numerous levels, always his dedication and enthusiasm to the task at hand, his unlimited creativity, his amazing optimism and sense of humor and charisma that he brought to the undertaking. I have also been fortunate to have Peter train with me in the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He was such a dedicated learner and always totally understanding and respecting the importance of the culture, the participants and the art, a true peaceful warrior. As a family, as friends, and as a community, we sincerely express our deepest sadness, we acknowledge the loss, and acknowledge the great importance and purpose of Peter’s life, and the loss it will be to us all that his passing brings. Though extremely difficult, we must face courageously the fact of Peter’s untimely death, which we owe to beautiful Peter his family and to ourselves that we do acknowledge the significant contributions of his life, which are countless in scope. Peter’s dedication to humanity and international travels with his unique design contributions in interesting places. Peter had a commitment to a wonderful family, the achievement of his professional and real life success, and the ability to maintain voluminous friendships. Faith, myself and our family remembers Peter as a wise and wonderful kind man that knew the value of his cherished friends, his family and his home.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Truman & Faith & Family
Posted by Anna Mudd on October 10, 2019
After leaving Blacksburg and moving to Kentucky, our family never lost touch with the friends we left there. Especially, the Ozolins. We would go back often on the weekends, making the 7 hour trip through the windy roads from Kentucky to Virginia, I remember them as being so much longer, probably because I was a whiny kid who just wanted to get to her best friend Tiana as soon as possible. These car rides are still so significant to me, and the aspect I remember the strongest was the arrival to the Ozolins house. We would finally pull up down the gravel driveway after this trip that had felt so long. It would usually be nighttime, Tiana and Mary would be asleep already. But there was always a light on in Peter’s office, and there he would be looking out from his desk. Waiting up to greet us. My childlike excitement was always met by his excitement to have us there. He was always the first one I saw when we finally arrived at the Ozolins. But, Peter was more than just this symbol of us making the trip to Virginia. He was thoughtful, funny, and genuinely caring. It is hard to imagine pulling up to an Ozolins house without peter in it, but the legacy he has left with all those he was close to and who shared his home makes the thought easier.
Posted by Becky Berkas on October 10, 2019
I have been slow to post as somehow this makes it feel more real. Tom and I have been so sad to hear about this and words do not seem to capture our feelings. The world truly lost a really great guy. 

Peter (and then Peter and Mary) were dear friends from Madagascar. Peter was kind, fun and always supportive. We teased him because I believe he was the first one to the hospital when our daughter Molly was born. We were not living in the same town at the time but Peter visited often as he headed several projects in the area. As he arrived to town he came by to visit and didn’t find us home. Certain we were at the maternity center he drove straight there. We were coming for a check up and as we pulled in we saw Peter’s truck pulling out. :) Moly arrived a few days later and Peter was our first visitor. 

We shared so many experiences with Peter over those next several years. We admired his bright and creative mind, his wit and we valued his dear friendship. Peter touched our lives and he will be forever in our hearts. 

We cannot join you for the celebration of his life but we will be holding you all in our hearts and prayers. 
Posted by Robert Massengale on October 10, 2019
Peter brought a warmth and good natured humor into every situation I ever encountered him in. He had a delightfully intimate way of tilting his head in and talking a little lower to you. This would be a chance to drop a little joke or have a personal side conversation while a saw was buzzing or waiting in line at aikido for someone smaller to throw one of us across the room.

He was a welcoming spirit in aikido and in other parts of his life.Peter loved aikido for the exercise . I think we both were inspired by the agility and skills of our sensais. I later learned that he also attended with his friend and employee Brendan, which I think reveals the sincerity and good nature of someone to include their friend / employee in an activity that’s personal and special for them.

Peter later rolled me into the boys workday, because they needed a youth movement that possessed the naïveté of the original members so someone would continue doing the dumber things that they were getting to forgetful to try and do.

Peter was a witty, kind, intelligent, hardworking, and fun friend to be around. He was a great source of advice and encouragement. He built community with his actions and in the example his lifestyle . He was proud of his family, the home he made with Mary, and all the wonderful friendships he made everywhere he went.
Posted by Sandi Ozolins on October 10, 2019
With our deepest sympathy, Peter's Australian cousins and our families send much LOVE and LIGHT to our family in America at the passing of our beloved Peter whom we were yet to meet!! Rest in Peace Dearest cousin, and may you FLY WITH THE ANGELS!! xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Posted by Jaime Moorman on October 8, 2019
We are so saddened to learn of Peter's passing. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this most difficult time. Peter left a lasting impression in this world and he will be missed greatly. Our deepest sympathies, Bob Fetzer and the staff at Building Specialists, Inc.
Posted by Sandra Wenacur on October 8, 2019
We were so shocked and saddened to hear about Peter's passing.  Our hearts and thoughts are with you all, Mary,Marija,Tiana,Norm,Mark,John,Liza, Mateo, family and friends. Peter was a beautiful person in every way. He was so very caring and had a wonderful sense humor. We hope that all the wonderful memories will help all of you get through the difficult days. With love to all - Sandy & Joel Wenacur
Posted by Karlis Ozolins on October 8, 2019
In memory of the cousin I never had the opportunity to meet. I have always heard much about you, and read of your travels and professional life. Sadly, taken so young. Love to your surviving family members. Missed. But we will meet somewhere, sometime. Cousin Karlis, Victoria, Australia.
Posted by Van C Joffrion on October 8, 2019
Peter has been a friend since my wife, Margaret, and I met him in Antananarivo, Madagascar in 1984, 35 years ago. There was an instant bonding leading to a lasting and deep friendship.  Peter was a life giver. Everyone I know who met him became his friend. He was a very talented architect who worked in Africa helping missions and other worthy organizations. He was a loving husband and father. His sense of humor and love of life endeared him to all. He cared for and defended the down and out. His linguistic abilities were to be envied. He was also an author of a book on architecture for the developing world. We love Mary, Marija and Tiana and vacationed with them on Ocracoke Island many times. Peter designed our home in Blowing Rock, N C. What wonderful memories.  We are so happy that the Ozolins-Bakken family live close enough to us that we can visit regularly. I count Peter among the best friends I have ever had.
I will always love him deeply. May God give rest to his soul.
Posted by Alan Downie on October 7, 2019
I first met Peter as one of his students at Virginia Tech. His Parameters in Design class was a student favorite, I'm sure mostly due to Peter's engaging personality and intelligent wit. When he later came on board as an architect at the firm where I have worked since leaving Tech we shared many good-natured ribbings about who now had more authority! He exceeded all our expectations with his ability to be a team player here while developing his own numerous client relationships. He always took the time to reflect God's love and acceptance of all people in every interaction. I miss his chipper "Muy Buenos Dias!" greeting here each morning (he also helped me expand my Spanish), and his amazing sense of humor. He was the best of all of us. Our hearts are broken as our spirits look forward to the Day!
Posted by Lisa Gaylord on October 6, 2019
My heartfelt thoughts from Madagascar to Peter’s family, friends, colleagues and all the people who were so fortunate to know and spend time with this very special person.  I first met Peter and Mary in 1982 in Madagascar – and a strong bond was immediately created between us.  Over the last 37 years, Madagascar always remained a very special place for Peter and his family. 

With his strong linguistic ability, he quickly learned Malagasy that allowed him to communicate with people from all walks of lives that fit the life style of this gregarious and curious person.   This last weekend I travelled 4 hours from Antananarivo (Tana) to Ansirabe – a voyage often made by Peter- as he worked in designing buildings (schools, hospitals and others) throughout the country to serve the Malagasy people.   In the sprinter taxi, there was a group of young boys, Zaza Kanto, who were going to participate in a music festival in Ansirabe.  They were boys who began singing together on the streets of Tana and were then supported to formalize their group to become accomplished national and international performers.  Peter would have loved this story as it represented the values that he aspired in himself and those around him - to strive for the best and succeed. 

Madagascar was also a special place that intricately linked our families together.  This relationship deepened over the years as we shared many wonderful times and moments together – including parenting.   As the saying goes in Africa, it takes a village to raise a child.  Peter was always a strong, loving and giving member of our global family – as we grew and nurtured our families in Madagascar and explored together the landscapes and cultures in Tanzania.  In 2000, Peter, Mary and Marija opened their loving home in Blacksburg, Virginia to welcome my daughter, Sarah for 6 months and then their daughter, Tiana Marie, after spending the first year of her life with my family in Madagascar.  

Peter positively impacted the lives of so many people - not only in Madagascar - but across continents and countries.  His presence in the lives of all the people he touched will be sorely missed – his sense of humor, his never ending love and caring for people, and his strong commitment to a sustainable environment that he manifested as architect.  One of the most stunning buildings designed by Peter is the Valbio Research Center in Ranomafana that is perched looking over a rain forest with the roaring river below. 

And so….. Peter will continue to live on in each of us.  Over the weekend, I come across a favorite book of my mother’s , Many Winters by Nancy Wood that contains American Indian stories and poems.   This is one that I am sure that Peter is now reading to each of us.

A long time I have lived with you
And now we are going
Separately to be together

Perhaps I shall be the wind
To blue your smooth waters
So that you do not see your face too much.

Perhaps I shall be the star
To guide your uncertain wings
So that you have direction in the night.

Perhaps I shall be the fire
To separate your thoughts
So that you do not give up.

Perhaps I shall be the rain
To open up the earth
So that your seed may fall.

Perhaps I shall be the snow
To let your blossoms sleep
So that you can bloom in the spring.

Perhaps I shall be the stream
To play a song on the rock
So that you are not alone.

Perhaps I shall be a new Mountain
So that you can always have a home.

And so Peter has sailed onto a new horizon, but his sprit remains with each of us.  

Love and hugs to all.  

Lisa Gaylord and family
Antananarivo, Madagascar
Posted by Meg Conlon on October 6, 2019
I know there will be so many wonderful things said about Peter that reiterate the lovely tribute above. He was silly, yet incredibly thoughtful. Well traveled, but at home on his farm. Could be found reading a novel in another language then watching Funniest Home Videos with Mary. But, for me, he was above all else, a wonderful role model as a parent. From the time we first brought our daughter into his home, I watched the perfect balance of playfulness and boundaries, always guided by a limitless amount of love for his two daughters.  He was always patient with them and with us as fledgling parents.  His legacy -- two daughters who are silly, but thoughtful.  Well-traveled and at home where ever they are. Talented and wise. But, most important, able to form the types of friendships their father valued and fostered.

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