Seaside's Vaughn was a quiet steward of Gulls athletics

Gary Henley, The Daily Astorian, Ore.
·5 min read

May 4—To the many athletes and followers of high school sports in Clatsop County, he was the guy at the scorer's table in Seaside who always wore shorts.

To Seaside, Dennis "Denny" Vaughn — who died just over a week ago — was much more.

On the surface, you can find his name on the list of Seagull booster club members and in the school's Hall of Fame, plus all the work he did for the Astoria Golf & Country Club and the county's junior golf program.

But, "that was all just the tip of the iceberg, as far as Denny was concerned," said longtime Seaside student-athlete, parent and fan Mark Truax. "He wasn't a teacher or a coach to me, but he certainly was a mentor. He did a lot more behind the scenes — stuff he didn't want credit for."

Vaughn began his teaching career at St. Mary's, Star of the Sea in Astoria, then moved to the Seaside School District and taught for 30 years, retiring in 1999. He coached freshman girls basketball in addition to boys golf, and was inducted into Seaside's Hall of Fame for meritorious service as an educator and coach.

He took the boys golf team to the state tournament 12 times.

He "left me a great program, and many of the standards he set we adhere to, to this day," said Seaside boys golf coach Jim Poetsch. "Even though he was no longer coaching, he never left the program. He helped run the Seaside Invitational and district tournaments, and donated shirts, rain gear, balls and lots of money through the years to the Seaside golf program."

Seaside assistant principal Jason Boyd said, "he was my seventh grade social studies teacher and golf coach. Denny genuinely cared about kids. He was very devoted in making sure the youth of our community had the best opportunity to grow."

Tributes poured in throughout the county following Vaughn's passing.

Jeff Ter Har, a local business owner and photographer who graduated from Seaside and is a big supporter of Gulls athletics, said, "What a great person. I was in his first class when he started teaching here, and my daughter was in his last, with a lot of Ter Hars in between. Truly a great teacher, golf coach, and most importantly of course, a devoted Duck."

"I'm deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Denny," said Dan Foss, a former Astoria boys golf coach. "He was the patriarch of Cowapa League boys golf from the '80s through to the mid-2000s. I will miss his professionalism and genuine friendliness. He cared tremendously about kids. It was an honor to know such a wonderful man."

Scorer's table teammates

She may not have known Vaughn the longest, but Alice Olstedt was one of those who knew him best. You can't sit next to someone at the scorer's table for countless games and not get to know them.

Vaughn operated the clock while Olstedt kept the scorebook for Seaside basketball, and she spent countless hours sitting to the right of Vaughn at Gulls' home games.

"Like so many of us, everyone knows little bits and pieces about Mr. Vaughn," Olstedt said. "We spent a lot of time talking, but Mr. Vaughn didn't talk about himself. He wasn't that kind of guy."

Vaughn graduated from Central Catholic High School in Portland and later the University of Oregon.

"He was a huge (Ducks) fan," said Olstedt. "He had season tickets for football, but was a huge fan of Oregon women's basketball."

She added, "He was so, so generous ... and I don't think people knew that. He was a Seaside booster donor, and had his name on the sign in the gym and on the sports schedule. But he was the first person to pull out money when kids were selling raffle tickets at basketball games.

"He always gave money to whomever was running the halftime hoop shoot so that kids who might not have money to shoot could shoot."

And Vaughn went a lot further than that, Truax said.

"When Kyle (Truax's son) started playing golf, the next thing we know, there's a set of Titleist golf clubs on our porch," he said. "Denny had 47 sets of clubs, so he gave Kyle one. He even gave Kyle an Oregon bag, and Kyle used it, because Mr. Vaughn gave it to him." The Truax family are big Oregon State fans.

"Another kid needed glasses, and Denny was there for him," Truax continued. "That's the stuff that nobody knew about, and he didn't want people to know."

Scorer's table etiquette

"He was very particular about how things should go at the table," Olstedt said. "People thought he sometimes made mistakes with the clock, but I can tell you, it was the clock, not Mr. Vaughn.

"We were kind of superstitious at the table. Things had to be set out a certain way. He knew where he wanted the clock. The home and visitors books always had to sit next to each other so you could communicate."

Olstedt added, "I was hoping so much that Mr. Vaughan would be there for the first home game at the table in the new gym. It will be pretty hard to not have him on my left.

"Every year, towards the end of the season, he would say, 'Well, I think I'm going to retire from doing this.' And I would smile and tell him I needed him there. And every year, he would show up."