Softball giant Olson remembered as “gem”

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor

One of North Dakota fastpitch softball’s biggest supporters was buried following his funeral Tuesday morning.

Art Olson, a former Knights of Columbus manager and sponsor of that organization’s fastpitch softball team, died last week at the age of 92.

He presided over the team in the early and mid-1970’s when it reeled off seven Class A championships. And it was one of the most dominant teams in Class A in the entire state.

It was a team filled with talented and athletic players, and one with outstanding sponsorship and support.

“Art was  not only a good, excellent sponsor, but an outstanding person as well,” said Dick Johnson, who was a slick-fielding third baseman for the team at the time. “We won seven titles with him as a sponsor, and might not have won one without him. He was deserving of the Hall of Fame.”

Johnson, Devils Lake’s new mayor, said Olson was the glue that held the team together and a real “gem” who treated everyone so well.”

Dave Shyiak, a former schoolteacher in Devils Lake and a power hitter on those state championship teams, went even further, calling Olson a “huge gem.”

He said Olson basically let the team do its own thing and never interferred. He worked effectively behind the scenes for the team and let his players play ball.

“He did have a lot of input in our success,” added Shyiak. “He was always so happy for us when we won and took a lot of delight in our success.”

Dennis Deutsch, currently a Devils Lake businessman, played second base on those championship teams. He said Olson was, without a doubt, the best sponsor he ever knew.

Deutsch said Olson was always involved in what the team was doing, where it was going and who the next opponent might be.

There was always an ample supply of beverages on hand to quench thirsts on hot, steamy summer weekends.

Deutsch also worked closely with Olson as a manager of the team for four years.

“As a sponsor, Art should be in the hall of fame,” added Deutsch.