Passion for OSU sports knows no age
There's no reason to think Bud Ossey can't go another 10 years, is there?
That's thinking a little long-term for Ossey, who turned 100 years old on Tuesday.
"I'm just happy to make it from one day to the next," said the man has who has been doing just that for a century.
Ossey never planned to make it this far. His father, Abraham, died at 74. His mother, Nadia, got to 94, but she was hampered by Alzheimer's disease for the last 10 to 15 years of her life.
Bud's health is excellent — "except for my legs, which don't work as well as they used to" — and his mind is as clear and fertile as someone half his age.
"I've been very fortunate," said Ossey, a 1943 graduate of Oregon State and the school's longest-running athletics booster. "I've tried to live a clean life. I've had a wonderful family, I was married to a wonderful woman for more than 70 years, and I've been blessed to have so many wonderful friends."
But 100 years of life?
"It's unbelievable," said Ossey, who has owned Oregon State season tickets in football and basketball since 1946. "I never thought I'd last this long. It's quite a miracle as far as I'm concerned."
If Ossey can get through his birthday week, he'll have a chance to live awhile longer.
First there was a family party thrown by his son, Don Ossey, at Waverley Country Club last Saturday night. Bud's other living son, Bob, brought his entire family from Australia for the occasion and to spend the week with his father.
"They shocked the hell out of me," the senior Ossey said. "I didn't have any idea that they'd be here. I went over to Don's house for dinner on Friday and walked in, and there were my two little great granddaughters, who ran up and gave me a hug. I was bewildered — what a beautiful thing."
Ossey will be recognized during Saturday's Oregon State-Iowa State basketball game at Gill Coliseum. On Sunday, there will be a birthday party at Tualatin Country Club, where Ossey — who shot his age from 69 to 96 until he stopped playing golf -- has been a member for more than 50 years.
"Supposed to be quite the party," Ossey said, adding with a smile, "Hope I get invited."
The Portland post of the Society of American Military Engineers also is throwing a birthday party for him at its monthly luncheon next week. He is the oldest member.
That's the one downside of living so long. Ossey has outlived all of his friends, along with his wife, Maxine, who died in 2013.
"It's depressing for me to know so many of my friends are gone," he said wistfully. "But I still have so many great people in my life. I never had many enemies, and I don't have any now."
Pause for effect.
"They're all dead."
He wasn't always Bud Ossey. Born Bernard Osipovich in Odessa, Russia, in 1919 (he changed his surname to Ossey during his college years), Bud fled Russia the next year with his mother after the Russian Revolution. His father followed two years later. Beginning in 1924, mother and son stayed at their house in South Portland while Abraham was in Corvallis, working toward an engineering degree at Oregon Agricultural College that he would get in 1927.
Bud was 5 in 1924 when his mother took him for a ride aboard an Oregon Electric train from Portland to Corvallis to visit his father. The three were in the Bell Field stands that weekend to watch the University of Oregon beat OAC 7-3 — five years before the term "Civil War" was used to describe the in-state rivalry.
The coaches that day were Paul Schissler of OAC and Joe Maddock of Oregon. Calvin Coolidge had just been elected to his second term as president. A loaf of bread cost 9 cents, a gallon of gas 22 cents. The average new automobile retailed for $265. That was 95 years ago.
Ossey graduated from Benson Tech in 1937, having played basketball and American Legion baseball against Boston Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky of Lincoln High. Ossey played Rook basketball under "Wild Bill" McKalip in 1937-38, the year the school name changed to Oregon State College.
With money an issue, Bud left school after one year and spent three years doing engineering work for the Bonneville Power Administration. He served time with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and was stationed in Corvallis, where he completed his education as part of the school's ROTC program. He graduated with an engineering degree in 1943, the year after he and Maxine were wed.
Ossey enjoyed a fine career working for the Corps of Engineers and, later in life, in the insurance business. His avocation, though, was Oregon State athletics.
In 1942, while still a student, he joined an OSC booster club called The Buck of the Month Club, which became the Beaver Club in 1946, then turned into the Beaver Athletic Student Fund and is now Our Beaver Nation.
Ossey was an original member of the board of directors for the Beaver Club and was later the group's president.
For almost 20 years in the 1950s and '60s, he kept statistics for broadcaster Bob Blackburn in football and basketball.
In 1971, Ossey started a fundraiser for the OSU golf program. Now in its 49th year, it's called the Ossey Scramble. Bud is still involved.
The indoor practice facility at Gill Coliseum is now called the Bud & Maxine Ossey Golf Center.
In 2013, Ossey was recipient of the Martin Chaves Lifetime Achievement Award for Athletics at Oregon State.
He also is a member of the school's engineering hall of fame.
To call Ossey an institution at his alma mater would be an understatement.
"Bud Ossey is the epitome of what it means to support your school after you graduate," said former OSU baseball coach Pat Casey. "He's body, heart, soul — the whole thing. With any sport, he is always looking for a way to give back. He's a true Beaver, a man's man. Never does he not have a smile on his face and be ready to roll. I love the guy."
So does Scott Barnes, who has known Ossey only since shortly after becoming OSU's athletic director in 2017.
"Bud is a prolific Beaver fan," Barnes said. "The fruits of his labor and passion for Beaver athletics are everywhere. His legacy will be about how much he cares about our student-athletes and coaches. I love the man."
Ossey has had a friendship with every Oregon State basketball coach since Slats Gill, but none better than with the current one, Wayne Tinkle.
"Bud isn't just a fan of Oregon State, he's family," Tinkle said. "He was one of the first guys I met when I got here. He embodies everything OSU stands for — he's tough, gritty, an unbelievable person. He means a ton to me personally with his support of our program. He's an incredible pillar of the OSU community."
Barry Spiegelberg has known Ossey since childhood, when Ossey hired Barry's father — the late Fred Spiegelberg — to sell insurance for several summers. The junior Spiegelberg, now director of development with the OSU Foundation, later worked with Ossey for many years through the foundation.
"Bud is one of our great volunteer fundraisers through the years," Spiegelberg said. "He's such a gracious man, such a positive presence. He's a coach's and administrator's dream. Even today he is still spending time helping us solicit sponsorships and getting people to support our program. He's one of us — he truly is. Bud is Oregon State, through and through."
In his 10th year as Oregon State's men's golf coach, Jon Reehoorn has been the beneficiary of Ossey's support in many ways.
"Bud is one of a kind," Reehoorn said. "He won't take no for an answer. He is going to do everything he can to support the people he truly cares about. He's a phenomenal guy. I feel lucky every time I get to spend time with him. You always want to do right by Bud. He cares so much about about program and our fundraiser (the Ossey Scramble), it inspires all of us to be the best that we can, too."
Through it all, Ossey has remained humble about the way he is revered at his alma mater.
"I feel honored that they think of me that way," he said. "I've been going to Oregon State football, basketball and baseball games as long as I can remember. It's been kind of natural. I've just always enjoyed going and feel part of the school."
Ossey wishes his wife could be with him now, drinking in the accolades as he hits triple figures.
"I'm still lost without her, although it's been more than six years since she died," said Ossey, who lives by himself. "As far as I'm concerned, she's still here. We were married for 70 years, but we were sweethearts before that. When I was playing ball at Benson, she went to Jefferson. When we played at Jefferson, she'd sit in the Jeff section, wearing my letterman's letter."
That was in 1937 — 82 years ago.
Bud Ossey is still alive and kicking, and he believes a lifetime of sports has helped make that possible.
"I've had some wonderful associations thanks to sports," he said. "I'm not sure I'd still be around without it."
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