Olmsted, Richard "Deke" Williams (12/13/2020)

Green Book and Yearbook photos (if available): 
Freshman dorm: 
Topliff Hall

A published obituary is not available, but Deke's sister provided this toucing essay about Deke:

 

Finally, I am ready to sit down and write a bit more about Deke Olmsted. I do this as I listen to a CBS this morning report about the incidence of CTE in kids playing football as early as 12 years old.

 

So, Deke started playing football at the age of 12 while at Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia. I remember that he played in the "Quaker Bowl" for a few years. Of course, he then went on the play at Dartmouth, and I remember him saying that "I was a small tackle and got hit over and over again". He did take a semester to travel the world before graduating in 1969. While at George Washington University pursuing a master's degree in public administration something "happened". I think it was in 1977 (give or take). I was living in Portland at the time, married with two young children, so my comments are based on distant memory and family stories. Deke demonstrated significant change in personality and behaviors and became significantly anorexic. He was alone and terrified; he spoke with his father (who was a doctor) by phone, and some help was forthcoming. He eventually returned to Portland where he was able to hold a very responsible job in Multnomah County, all the while struggling with anorexia and related health problems. He did get married, a marriage that lasted four years, and had no children. At about that time, he invested in a "Yankee barn home" kit from New Hampshire, dreaming of recreating something of Hanover here in Portland, and it was then that he began to functionally fall apart. The land he bought was wetland; he could not complete the project, which was eventually foreclosed on. All the while he was running 15 miles a day, running marathons, eating just enough to keep running, and his anorexia was basically running his life. He did enter an eating disorders program but did not follow up with after-care and was right back at his self-destructive behaviors.

 

About twelve years ago he had two consecutive car accidents in which he starred the windshield. He wasn't wearing a seat belt: more evidence of impaired judgement. He was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, declared disabled, and was no longer able to work. He lived alone in a condominium, over time demonstrated behaviors that were concerning, was unable to manage his finances or his self-care; had little fender benders, many falls, and finally fell at a local sandwich shop and broke his wrist, his hip/leg, etc etc. At that time he was being exploited by a heroin addict who was helping him at home for a whole lot more money than Deke knew he was paying him, and I reported him to Adult Protective Services.  Blah, blah. Eventually I petitioned for guardianship, and Deke did not return to independent living after that.

 

Over the seven years that he has been in care in a local Adult Foster Care Home, he has lost his mobility, become totally dependent in all aspects of care, except that he can feed himself. He has no muscular strength, has lost ground verbally and cognitively, and has no discernable insight into his circumstances. Our parents are both deceased, and I am his "surrogate", visiting him 3-4 times a week, providing as much love and support as I am able to. His caregivers are Romanian and have become like second family to him. He has no social contacts other than what is available where he is, doesn't get out at all, gets up three times a day for meals, spends all the rest of his time/life lying in bed watching CNN. That’s perfect as he doesn't remember anything he listens to. but they keep repeating themselves over and over again.

 

I share this with you and your classmates not to berate or belittle Deke. Not at all. Rather, I want to shed light into the life of a terrific guy, my brother, who has suffered multiple insults physically, functionally, psychiatrically, and cognitively for most of his adult life. I do believe, at least from a subjective point of view, that he has CTE (among many other diagnoses). I suspect that he is not the only one who played school football. It saddens me to think about so many young boys and girls who are in harm's way, unaware of the consequences until it is too late. 

 

If there was any way to have an autopsy done after he dies to determine whether he has/had CTE or not, it would be very, very interesting for all concerned. You are very welcome to share this information with your classmates.

 

Best to you all,

Jill Sydnor (Deke Olmstead’s sister)