Remembering Mr. Olson

Richard “Dick” Olson will have a memorial service on Sept. 22. – Courtesy Photo

One day during football practice, Curtis Hill and his Neah-Kah-Nie teammates were on the field when a memory of their coach was created that would became a story they would tell for years to come.
By Chelsea Yarnell
Guest Contributor
“There’s not one of us in that time that doesn’t remember the time he spotted a bear on the hill behind the school and went and got his rifle because he had a bear tag,” Hill said with a laugh.
Richard “Dick” Olson joined the Neah-Kah-Nie School District in 1962 after graduating from Linfield College. He spent the next 30 years teaching, with most of his time spent educating students in art and mechanical drawing. He also dedicated nearly two decades to coaching football, wrestling and track and field for the Pirates. Olson died at his home on Aug. 19, after a long battle with cancer.
His son, Rich, recalls tagging along with his dad through his childhood “growing up in locker rooms,” watching others’ lives be changed by his dad’s influence.
“He tried to get the best out of people,” Rich said. “He didn’t put up with excuses from people.”
Mr. Olson was someone who didn’t just watch from the sidelines.
“He’d get in the middle of stuff without pads and show you how to do it,” Hill said. “I really enjoyed playing for him. When he was directly involved it always seemed more fun because he was willing to take chances…sets you up for opportunities to succeed. He wasn’t afraid to blitz when it didn’t make sense.”
Mr. Olson’s exception for excellence resulted in success for many sports teams and athletes at Neah-Kah-Nie.
“During his time, his teams were some of the best in school history and a number went on to do some great things in college athletics,” Kelly Sullivan said.
Sullivan was recruited by Mr. Olson to join Neah-Kah-Nie’s very first cross country team in 1972. The team needed a fifth runner, and Sullivan’s mom agreed that if he joined the team, he could get out of milking cows in the evening.
“Coach Olson said to me: ‘I think you could be really good at this, but I also know how much you hate milking cows.’”
Sullivan went on to run distance for Willamette University, and eventually coach cross country and track and field for Oregon State University and Seattle University.
“He had a lot of insight on people,” Sullivan said. “He encouraged me all through high school and when I went on to college to run. We just really created a strong bond.”
Jim Massey was one of Mr. Olson’s athletes that turned pro.
“I didn’t really realize where he was coming from as a coach until I went to college,” Jim Massey said. “He showed us integrity.”
Massey pursued football at the University of Oregon and Linfield College, before being drafted by the Rams and ending his career in the NFL with the New England Patriots.
Bob Daniels also saw success under Mr. Olson’s coaching. During his time at Neah-Kah-Nie, Daniels impressively threw the javelin more than 230 feet.
“Mr. Olson was very integral to get me to go to the University of Oregon,” Daniels said. “He personally drove me there and introduced me to Bill Bowerman. You know, the guy who founded Nike.”
As a Duck, Daniels threw more than 250 feet and qualified for the finals in the 1972 Olympics Trials.
“I’m really thankful for everything he did for me and for encouraging me,” Daniels said. “He was one of the reasons I went into teaching.”
A memorial service for Mr. Olson was held Sept. 22 at the Nehalem Bay United Methodist Church.

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