Mel Olson’s memory living on through decades of athletic accomplishments

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Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald From left to right, Lupe Hernandez, Lew Mason, Jon Lane and Dick Deane pose with a portion of the Olson family trophy collection. The trophies are being re-purposed and distributed to communities throughout the Columbia Basin.

MOSES LAKE — Mel and Vicki Olson were lifelong athletes.

Whether it was wrestling, football, trick water skiing, sailing or bowling, the Olsons only knew how to give exceptional effort.

“He had been a very successful athlete through high school and college — his whole life,” Jon Lane said. “His wife was a nationally-ranked bowler and they both were water skiers, sailing.”

After decades of domination, the trophies piled up. Rows that wrapped around a three-car garage, totaling close to 300.

“Vicki was a United States champion in bowling, she was a president of the Nationals Women’s Bowling Association, she was a chairman of the Pacific Northwest for something like 15 years of bowling and so some of these trophies over here are things she’s acquired through her traveling,” Dick Deane said.

Mel Olson tragically passed away in 2018, leaving behind all those tangible reminders of what athletics meant to his family

Mingo DeLeon, a two-time state wrestling champion at Moses Lake, had an idea. DeLeon enlisted his cousin, Lupe Hernandez, as well as Deane, Lane, Lew Mason and Tim Harper at Lake Bowl to help collect, re-purpose and distribute the trophies to the Columbia Basin’s youth.

Hernandez has reached out to churches in Moses Lake, Warden, Othello, Royal City, Mattawa and Beverly.

“I contacted the pastors and I told them if you need trophies to give to the kids when they do an event or something, you don’t have to buy them,” he said. “They’re giving them to me so I’ll give them to you and all we’ve got to do is change the plaques on them and stuff and then you can give them instead of buying them.”

Mel Olson’s impact was felt far and wide. He was inducted into the Moses Lake High School Hall of Fame and Inland Empire Hall of Fame.

“He was always involved and always supportive of kids and athletics and participation,” Lane said. “He is a legend. You hear legendary broadcasters from WSU or wherever; well, Mel was that here.”

Mel and Vicki Olson broadcast sports for 50 years, in addition to Mel’s numerous years of coaching.

“I come from a big family — I have four brothers and four sisters — and all of my brothers either played football or wrestled with Mel,” Lane said.

Mason, a retired naval commander, showed an inkling of his grit at an early age for Mel Olson.

“I even played football for him,” Mason said. “He put me on defense because I hit pretty hard.”

This project is a reminder of who Mel Olson was.

“He was always helping the kids that were needing help, that are less fortunate to get in a program, he would make a way to help them out and put them in there,” Hernandez said. “It showed care for the other person. He was always looking out for the kid who was kind of a lonely guy. He’d bring them in and put them in sports or something — that’s the way he was.”

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