November 25, 2002
Obituary: Richard Donald (Rusty) Wailes
Richard Donald (Rusty) Wailes
Two-time Olympic gold medalist and Woodinville resident for 23 years, Rusty Wailes, 66, died Oct. 11 of a heart attack.
He was born in Seattle on March 21, 1936. Rusty had a very diverse and accomplished life. An Eagle and Explorer scout, he graduated from Yale and returned to Seattle to marry the love of his life, Lynne Housel. He then worked as an engineer at Boeing helping to develop Air Force Two. Rusty was also the Dean of Students of Mackinac Island College and supported the inception of Up With People and served as their treasurer. Longing to return to the Pacific Northwest, Rusty and family moved to Woodinville where he worked as a manager at Kenworth Truck Co. until his retirement in 1997 after 18 years of service.
Rusty, a passionate member of Cottage Lake Presbyterian Church, served as elder, mentor and youth leader. He was also a strong force in his community, volunteering for Northwest Chinook Recovery, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys Scouts of America and others.
While Rusty had a multitude of achievements, he is best known for his athletic career. He entered Yale in 1954, and following in the footsteps of his father and older brother who had rowed for the University of Washington, Rusty turned out for crew. As a sophomore, with just two years of rowing experience, Rusty's Yale crew represented the United States at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. Losing their first qualifying race, Yale stormed back into the finals by winning the Repercharge, second chance race. In one of the most exciting eight-oared finals on record, Yale rowed past Canada and Australia in the final meters of the race to win the Gold Medal for the United States. Returning to New Haven, Rusty continued his collegiate rowing career and was elected captain of the crew in his senior year. For a third consecutive year, his Yale crew beat Harvard in the oldest intercollegiate sporting event in the country.
Rusty was one of the founding organizers of the Lake Washington Rowing Club (LWRC). Coached by Stan Pocock, a rowing and coaching legend, the LWRC crews dominated the US Olympic Trials in 1960, sending five crews to Rome, Italy. Rusty was rowing in the four without coxswain and in their first heat they broke an oar and came in second. In the Repercharge, they set a world record that was to stand for 20 years. In the final, his crew was in last place at the half way mark and rowed through the competition beating Italy and Russia for the Gold.
After taking time off for career and family, Rusty returned to rowing in the late 1980s, joining with three former oarsmen and a coxswain to form the Tangled Oar Rowing Association (TORA). Rowing in the Masters Divisions, TORA won races at the San Diego Crew Classic, US and Canadian National Championships and competed in the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. This crew of friends continued to row and on a sunny Oct. 11, they took their last row together. Rusty died, the way he always wanted Ñ while rowing. He was brought ashore at the Old Canoe House at the University of Washington where his father and brother had rowed as undergraduates.
Rusty is survived by his wife, Lenore (Lynne) Wailes. Other survivors include his children: Maria (Lauren) and her husband Phillip; Lynda; Rich and his wife Camille; David and his wife Gretchen. His grandchildren are Jacob David and Savanna Roseanna Marie. He is also survived by his brother, Ron; sister-in-law Bonnie; and niece and nephew, Jeannie and David.
A "Celebration of Rusty's Life" was held Nov. 10 at the Bear Creek United Methodist Church. Memorials may be made to Cottage Lake Presbyterian Church, Non-Permanent Endowment Fund, 18350 NE Woodinville-Duvall Pl. Woodinville, WA 98072; The George Pocock Rowing Foundation, 3320 Fuhrman Ave East Seattle, WA 98102; and The Northwest Chinook Recovery, 15657 Yokeko Drive, Anacortes, WA