Richard Reske: 'The epitome of a volunteer'

EUGENE, Ore. – Hayward Field holds a special place in the hearts of thousands of track and field fans across the world, but only one of them – outside of Bill Bowerman – has a building named in their honor at the iconic stadium.

The “Reske Center,” an equipment shed on the southeast corner of the track, was built as a tribute to the countless hours of volunteer service logged by longtime Oregon Track Club member Richard Reske. The shed is used to store all of the equipment utilized by the OTC to support its numerous events.

Reske, who was born in East Prussia in 1926, died of natural causes on Aug. 28 at the age of 90.

“Richard was a phenomenal man,” said Mike Olsen, who was OTC president when the Reske Center was constructed. “He was the epitome of a volunteer. As far as helping out, he never said ‘no’ to anyone. Whether he was ordering stuff, picking up stuff, or delivering stuff, he was always there to support us at all of our meets. He was just a special gentleman.”

Reske emigrated from Germany to Springfield, Oregon with his wife, Melanie, and their 1-year-old son, Thomas, in 1956. Their daughter, Bettina, was born two years later. They became U.S. citizens in 1962.

Much to the delight of the OTC, the Reskes were devoted to the sport of track and field. They sat together in the same seats at Hayward Field to watch Oregon home meets for 40 years, and the stadium became a second home to the entire Reske clan.

“My whole family has been involved in track and field, in one way or another, since I was four years old,” said his daughter, Bettina Huber, a longtime javelin official at Hayward Field. “It was very much a part of all of our lives.”

That legacy lives on today.

One of the most prestigious awards presented annually by the Oregon Track Club is the Reske Service Award, which is given to a member whose work for the organization is deemed above and beyond the call of duty. The first recipient of the award was its namesake – Richard Reske in 2001.

Olsen, a fellow recipient of the Reske Service Award, said it’s one of the most important accolades he has ever received.

“I feel honored to get it,” he said. “I’ve received a lot of awards, but that one is very important to me, and I’m proud to display it in my home.”

One of Reske’s passions was encouraging his wife’s initial foray into master’s track and field competition at the age of 68. Melanie Reske, who died four years ago, went on to become a record-setting athlete in her age group in the shot put, discus and javelin.

“Richard was incredibly loyal and supportive of Melanie,” said Cathie Twomey Bellamy, a local running coach, longtime volunteer and member of the OTC Board of Directors. “He was always by her side, but he wanted to be in the background … he had such incredible warmth for everybody.”

Together, the Reskes became ubiquitous figures in the TrackTown USA community, and their impact was undeniable.

“Richard and Melanie were quite the power couple,” said Prefontaine Classic meet director Tom Jordan. “If you had those two working on an event, you knew things would get taken care of. They were a great team.”

“Many generations of track and field athletes, officials and spectators have been impacted by the dedication of the entire Reske family,” said TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna. “Their contributions to the fabric of this community will always be remembered, and we know the Reske legacy will live on in the future.”

By several accounts, one of Richard Reske’s prized possessions was a vintage blue-and-white Chevy pick-up truck which he used to deliver supplies and equipment for the OTC.

Lance Deal, the American record-holder and Olympic silver medalist in the hammer throw, once asked Reske if he would ever consider selling the truck.

“Sure,” he told Deal, who currently serves as Director of Track & Field Venues and Program Support for the University of Oregon.

“For a thousand bucks a year.”

Reske’s sense of humor resonated with all those who crossed his path in life, and it was just one of the many memorable traits which stood out to those who knew him best.

“He enjoyed humor,” said Bettina Huber. “He was a fun guy that liked practical jokes. I once gave him a sword for Christmas and he would use that to knight some of his caregivers.

“He was a very honorable man. He loved his family and he went through so much to care for all of us. When people ask me, ‘who do I idolize?’ the answer is always, my Dad. I was so impressed with his character and how strong he was as a person. Those are the things that stay with me the most.”

A memorial service will be held on Friday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at Grace Community Fellowship, 989 Country Club Road, in Eugene. Memorials and condolences can be sent to the Oregon Track Club, a charity of your choice, or to 1126 S. 44th Street, Springfield, OR, 97478.