Kevin Olson

OLSON: Sign of the Times

Sadly, it seems like every year we lose so many great friends and this last year is no exception. Racing has provided me the opportunity of making so many friends over the last 50 years and it never gets any easier when I lose one of them. As you get older and your friends get older as well, it seems that almost every day you hear of someone you know well has died or has some disease that will limit his time on this earth. We all assume that we will live forever. Unfortunately, we won’t live forever and it is hard to adjust to that day finally coming.

There are too many to mention that we lost this last year, but I want to mention just a few who I personally had spent some time with over the years. I wish I could mention them all.

Just a few weeks back, my old friend and racing buddy Terry Wente passed away right at Christmas from a long struggle over the past decade. For years, Terry and I raced all over the country in both USAC and so many other clubs around the Midwest. Terry, of course, came from such a great bloodline as the son of the great racer Bob Wente, along with his racing brothers, Bobby Jr. and Mike. All were dedicated racers and good friends since I started racing. Terry will surely be missed.

During the year, we all lost a major player in the game of racing when Don Edmunds passed away at his home in Oregon. I had so many great memories of going to Don’s shop in Anaheim that all the famous racers and celebrities passed through almost daily. Don’s work and building skills changed racing, especially midgets, to a point that today most cars are some form of his design. He was an Indy 500 veteran and master fabricator and I was fortunate enough to spend a few Thanksgiving dinners at his home in the mountains before heading out to the annual Turkey Night Grand Prix.

I truly enjoyed being in the presence of such racing history and greatness. The Offy roadster midget he built late in his career, which was returned to him a few years before he died, had to be the best looking midget ever built and should have been a pavement car of the future. But, like many major innovative changes in racing (such as Mike Fedorchak’s Munchkin car) they are quickly outlawed. RIP Rotten Red.

As I mentioned, there are so many others, but page space is at a premium. Maybe I can add others in another month’s column. Guys like Aldo Andretti and friends like the dedicated Bryan Gapinski and Brian Townsend are gone, but their legacies will live on. There are stories behind each and every one that I failed to mention and they deserve not to be forgotten.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for me, though. In 2020 my high-point of the year had to be when my fifth grandchild, Ada, was born on December 7th to my beautiful daughter Kallie and husband Michael. For the first time, I wasn’t able to be physically present in the hospital like I was for my other kids’ and grandkids’ births, due to the restrictions of COVID. But I wasn’t far away, as I was in the parking lot when Ada was born. I guess I’m a pretty blessed guy.

Also, 2020 is bringing me great personal satisfaction by repaying a debt that I have had since the ‘60s. Bob Tattersall was one of my favorite childhood heroes. No price could be put on the great joy and memories he gave me. Now I have found a way to give back a little for all he gave to racing. I’m repaying this debt to both him and his wife Dee, who still lives in Streator, Illinois. I’m starting a fund for a plaque memorializing Bob that will be placed in his hometown of Streator.

Dee and I have received approval from the American Racing Memorial Association to erect a marker honoring Tat. This organization has put up signs for the Kenyon Brothers, Bryan Clauson, the Vukovich Family, and the Bettenhausen family, along with many others. I am inviting all my racing fans to join me in raising money for this plaque. An account has been set up at the State Bank of Cross Plains, P.O Box 409, Evansville, Wisconsin 53536-4050. Checks should be made payable to the Bob Tattersall Memorial Fund at this address. I have posted this information on Facebook and gifts can be made by check, PayPal or electronic bank payment through you own bank. All donations will be greatly appreciated.

All the memories this legend gave us all through his great career should never be forgotten. The cost of the bronze sign is $3,000, plus funds are needed to pay for the concrete and labor of installation. I hope, together, we can raise enough money to have it up this spring so that Dee can be part of the dedication ceremony. And, to make it official as Tatt would have wanted it, we will have a visit to Bob’s favorite bar in Streator following the ceremony. A big thank you to all that have already contributed to this project helping to make the memory of Bob “Two Gun” Tattersall live on.

So, the new year is in full swing. I understand that the Chili Bowl and local Tulsa upscale saloons, along with arts and entertainment dancing centers, survived without my presence. I am anxiously awaiting another trip around Uranus when the world is back to normal, the virus is under control, and Clayton Moore is the only one left wearing a mask. Stay safe Kemosabe and see you in the funny pages. KOolson bug

error: Content is protected !!