Ashburn Couple, John and Nancy Oliphant, to Observe World Elephant Day on August 12

August 9, 2013

(Ashburn, Va.) - Last year, World Elephant Day was observed for the first time on August 12,  bringing awareness to the importance of conserving and protecting one of the world's largest mammals.  This year, one local couple hopes to bring more attention to the threatened animal with their unique collection.
John and Nancy Oliphant live at Ashby Ponds retirement community in Ashburn, Va.; "Oliphant" is a derivative of the word "elephant," according to the couple. They also note that they have come across only one other person outside of their family with the name - a political cartoonist named Pat Oliphant.
But that's not where the relationship with the elephant ends for the couple.  When they moved to Ashby Ponds in 2012, they decided to bring some, but not all of the elephant tchotchkes they had collected throughout their marriage.  The couple estimates that they once had over 800 elephant-related items in their home, but moved from Sedona, Ariz. to Ashby Ponds with only 225.  "At the time, I belonged to a Republican women's organization in Sedona," said Nancy.  "So I donated most of the collection to them."
The elephants have been through quite a journey, moving with the couple throughout John's service in the U.S. Air Force; the two have lived in Pennsylvania, Alaska, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Texas, Arizona, and now Virginia.  The decision to move to Ashby Ponds was easy, as their son's family lives close by in South Riding.
It all started in 1969 when Nancy bought John an elephant decanter "as a joke".   Their collection has come not only from their own purchases, but also from gifts from friends and neighbors.  "I'd say we've been given about half of the items," said John.  The elephant-related items in their apartment home at Ashby Ponds range from bookends to lamps to teapots and beyond.  "We even have an elephant nutcracker that we put out during the holidays," said Nancy.  One of the Oliphant's most prized elephant-themed possessions is a Dumbo watch given to Nancy by their grandchildren many years ago.
On August 12, the couple plans to display facts about World Elephant Day outside of their apartment home at Ashby Ponds, hoping passersby learn something about elephant awareness.
About Ashby Ponds: Ashby Ponds, one of 16 retirement communities managed by Erickson Living, is situated on a scenic 132-acre campus in Ashburn, Virginia (approximately 30 miles west of Washington, D.C.). The community is home to over 700 residents and has over 100 resident-run and resident-driven clubs and groups, an indoor pool, a fitness club, transportation services, 24-hour security, and flexible dining options. More information about Ashby Ponds can be found at