Ocosta loses a legend

With the passing of George Caldwell on March 7, Ocosta lost one of its all-time sports heroes. George’s obituary that appeared in The Daily World on March 20 brought back of my memories of George.

My first memory goes way back to 1950, when George was a sophomore fullback on one of George’s best football teams ever and I was in fourth grade and an impressionable sports enthusiast. George would often run extra laps and do exercises after football practice. Right then and there, George became one of my sports heroes, as well as my lifetime inspiration and role model.

That football team tied its first game with Moclips, but wound up going unbeaten. The team won a 40-0 rematch with Moclips, as well as an impressive win over much-larger Port Townsend as well as a 13-12 season-ending win over once-beaten Forks. George’s teammates included quarterback Ray Buel Mechals, a future athletic Hall of Famer at Humboldt State, halfback Art Bell, outstanding linemen Lindval Hatton and Big Bill Wade and George’s older brother, end Charles Caldwell.

The obituary mentioned that George was an outstanding multi-sport athlete. To expand further, George’s best sport was perhaps boxing, where he participated in smokers in Grays Harbor County for several years and often in the main event. To the best of my knowledge, George never lost a match.

In 1961, in the early years of Grays Harbor slow pitch, George and Eldon Odle (my Ocosta High School football coach) formed a team from the South Beach that we called the Ocosta Clams. Only us country folk could have come up with a name like that.

Here we were competing against some of the best athletes the Harbor had to offer and we won the championship. It was the thrill and honor of my sports life to be playing with Eldon Odle and experience his competitiveness first hand and for George Caldwell — my two role models.

Nearing the age of 60 in 2000, I can remember using George as an inspiration during my first Seattle-to-Portland bicycle ride. Only about 26 percent of the riders made the ride in one day and I had aspirations of doing that.

I had never ridden over 200 miles before and, when I got tired, I would tell myself that George did this in a wheelchair, you can at least do it on a bicycle.

Yes, George did the ride in his wheelchair. He made it nearly 150 miles to Longview until his arms gave out. To this day, I can hardly imagine how anyone could make it up some of those hills in a wheelchair.

Also in 2000, George and Eldon Odle were selected to Ocosta’s All-Century Athletic Hall of Fame as Ocosta’s co-runners-up for for male athlete of the century. At the induction ceremony, I can remember Bob Roiko, perhaps Ocosta’s best-ever basketball player, asking that George Caldwell be given a standing ovation. Needless to say, it was a very emotional standing ovation.

George was one of those people who made a difference in the lives of others. He was not only my inspiration, but also to others, particularly the handicapped. His community service and other accomplishments from his wheelchair are almost too many to list. He was a great man.

Dave “Corky” Hathaway

Ocosta High School Class of 1959


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