Washington State University Athletic Director Bill Moos had a choice last weekend.
He could have made the short drive from Pullman to Spokane to attend the football team’s spring Crimson and Gray Game where his high-profile hire – football coach Mike Leach – unveiled his 2012 team to some 10,700 curious onlookers.
Or he could make the five-hour drive to Olympia with his wife, Kendra, to attend the Olympia High School Athletic Hall of Fame dinner and auction, joining eight other OHS alumni in the second class to be inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame.
Pressure from Cougar boosters aside, it was an easy choice for the 1969 OHS graduate, who was a standout football and basketball player in high school before taking his gridiron talents to WSU.
He had a break from his busy schedule, and a chance for some quiet time in the car, conversing with his wife. And he regaled in some story telling and laughs with former OHS teammates, such as Charlie Saibel, and coaches, such as Dale Herron.
“I missed the Cougar’s spring game, but that’s OK – this is a priority,” Moos told the 175 in attendance. “I always took a great deal of pride in being an Oly Bear.”
Moos seemed to enjoy the time he spent reminiscing about his days at Olympia High School. He recalled playing in the last Olympia High School football game on dirt and sand at Stevens Field and the first game at Ingersoll Stadium.
He joked about the first time he put on a football uniform, not knowing how all the pieces fit on the body.
“I had never played tackle football before,” Moos said, recalling his upbringing on a wheat and cattle ranch in rural Eastern Washington, moving to Olympia at age 14 when his father, Don Moos, took a position in then-Gov. Dan Evans’ Cabinet. “We played eight-man flag football in an alfalfa field.”
As hall of fame induction ceremony emcee John Kiley, a former OHS basketball player and coach, noted, Moos was part of a class of inductees with staggering talent and influence. Everyone from the godfather of OHS sports coaches – Chick Rockey – to arguably the best female athlete to ever attend OHS – Kris Larson, winner of nine varsity letters in four different sports in the 1980s. In 2006, she became the first black woman to be named fire captain in the Los Angeles Fire Department.
I must confess, I’m a little biased in my assessment of the athletic hall of fame class. My cousin, Ron Dodge, a top-notch high school (OHS Class of ’54), college, semi-professional and professional baseball player, is a member of the Class of 2012.
He joins my dad, John R. Dodge, who was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame last year. They were both baseball catchers and their pictures – two young men in baseball uniforms – now hang together on the school’s hall of fame wall. How cool is that?
While my father is 91 and still sharp as a tack, Ron Dodge has been gone for 45 years. As a Navy fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, he was shot down and captured by the Viet Cong during a mission over North Vietnam in May 1967. A prisoner of war until his death, his remains were finally turned over to the United States government in 1981. He’s interred at Arlington National Cemetery and forever in our hearts.
“Ron Dodge was a hero,” Kiley said, as the crowd rose for a round of applause in his memory. Like so many of us, Kiley was forever moved by the picture of my cousin that first appeared in Paris Match magazine all those years ago, his head wrapped in a bandage, looking a bit dazed, but defiant, surrounded by his captors.
My dad shared a short story at the induction ceremony about the nephew that was like a son to him.
The proud young Naval commander had flown his jet from Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego to McChord Air Force Base to attend a family gathering before he shipped out to Vietnam.
After taking off from McChord and beginning his flight south, he buzzed my parents’ home on Yelm Highway – so close to the ground you could almost pick out his grinning face in the cockpit.
“That’s the last time I ever saw him,” my dad said.
Can you tell that the OHS Athletic Hall of Farm induction ceremony was a powerful event for all the inductees, their families and their friends? For the Dodge family, there’s no doubt about it.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444, firstname.lastname@example.org