When I graduated from Woodburn High School in 1949, there was a freshman athlete drawing a lot of attention from the coaching staff. In four sports. He had speed, size and athleticism and had already won a varsity letter in track as a sprinter. He would go on to win three varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball to go with his four varsity letters in track. He was a prima superb athlete.
I didnt get to follow his high school career because I was in Mississippi and New Jersey fulfilling an obligation to the U.S. Air Force. But when I was forgiven my academic shortcomings and resumed school at Oregon College of Education (now recognized as Western Oregon University) Athletic Director Bill MacArthur asked me to resume my pre-Air Force days as sports information director. I interviewed with college president Dr. Roben Maskey but we couldnt agree on a compensation package, so I instead went to work as assistant sports editor of the Capital Journal, covering both high school and college sports and, of course, got my academic career back on track.
Mac told me how disappointed he had been that a football recruit from my hometown of Woodburn hadnt taken to college football in 1953. He told me that Leonard Swede Pavlicek had all the attributes that would have set records at OCE. Mac was never sure why Swede Pavlicek gave up on his college career, but he reminded me more than once about his disappointment.
Swede had gone to work for Woodburn Feed and Seed as a 14-year-old boy and they gladly hired him back. He remained at Woodburn Feed and Seed for the next 51 years, retiring in 1999 at the age of 65.
He rose from dock hand to become plant manager and a very valuable asset to the corporation, where his ready smile, sense of humor and efficient manner became a great asset to the company in its expanding role in the fertilizer business. Swede was a good PR man.
He retired with a comfortable pension, recognized as a valuable contributor to the expansion of the farming community.
So why am I telling you all this?
Well, simply put, Swede has just come through a very delicate and risky heart operation in which he has acquired a new heart valve. He is at home resting and rehabilitating and getting used to his new heart valve, which was fashioned from the innards of a calf. Hell jokingly tell you not to be alarmed if he starts mooing in the middle of a conversation.
Swedes legions of friends will be reassured that his recovery is going nicely and that he expects to be playing golf just as soon as golf weather rules the scene. Hes worried that some of his golf buddies at Evergreen Golf Club will need to find a new source of income if Swede isnt around for the Tuesday and Thursday team games.
Swede didnt become a collegiate football star and he didnt get a college education, but he and wife Betty (Frith) made sure that their five children all got college degrees and have had successful careers of their own.
If you want to visit Swede, call first to make sure he isnt at a follow-up meeting with one or more of his three-man surgical team at Oregon Health & Science University or undergoing rehab therapy. He died for one and a half minutes on the operating room table. Hes thankful for a new lease on life. He would enjoy your visit.