Despite his limitations, Doug Hudson really appreciated athletes.

Like many folks, I met Doug Hudson years ago when I first came to St. Helens. I always thought of him as a very friendly guy and someone who really loved sports.

Due to medical problems and disabilities, Doug appeared older than he was. When I first met him he was in his 20s, but most thought he was a lot older. I knew the truth because I asked him. Doug loved to talk about such things.

I started a men’s slow pitch league in the 1970s and we played every week night, and put on tournaments every weekend in the spring andby: SELF-PORTRAIT - Sports Editor John Brewington summer. We often had 16 tournaments a year. Doug hardly ever missed one. He loved to watch softball and he loved to talk to the players. He was a true fan. He had several players he adored, much like there are fans of certain major league players.

I recall one weekend tournament. Doug was there as usual and rooting for one of his favorites, Ozzie Morrow, out of Rainier. Ozzie was (and probably still is) a great big guy, somewhere around 6-foot, 7-inches and a really good athlete. We always had an awards ceremony at the close of a tournament, and we presented Ozzie with the Most Valuable Player trophy. Ozzie probably had a closet full of them at home, but he did something I’ve always thought was one of the nicest things I’d ever seen anyone do. When he left the field after the award, he gave the trophy to Doug.

“Look what Ozzie gave me, John,” Doug, nearly in tears, must have said a dozen times. He showed everyone still hanging around the field. The next week Doug showed up at the field with the trophy strapped to the front of his three-wheel bike. It meant more to Doug than just about any other possession. I’m not sure how long he kept it on his bike, but he was still packing the trophy around a year later. Ozzie had a fan for life.

Life wasn’t fair to Doug from the start, but he made the most of it in his own inimitable way. He cared about many people, and I know the ballplayers at Campbell treated him well. When someone didn’t, he risked the ire of just about everyone else. Picking on Doug was not allowed.

His cousin Evelyn told me he was picked on once as a youngster by three boys. He was held down and tormented with a snake. Doug broke his way free and gave one of the bullies a black eye. The trio got in a bit of trouble too.

Doug never had a girlfriend, the best anyone knew, but he would lay the title on some at times, including his caregiver of many years, Ruth Cox. Doug had something of a thing for women in red dresses and lipstick.

Evelyn said she once brought him back an “autographed” photo of a performer in Mexico in a bright red dress, signed: “Love, Annette.”

“He was so proud of that photo,” she said.

Doug loved sports, but not only to watch. He loved to shoot basketballs, run track, and bowl. In the 1980s, he won some medals in Special Olympics he cherished.

He was also a singer, and loved rock & roll, and Elvis. One of his proudest moments had to be when they held a 50th birthday party at the Elks for him, and he got up with the Elvis impersonator and sang “Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender” in front of the assembled crowd. Just about everyone was in tears, including the impersonator.

Doug provided the impetus for group homes in St. Helens. He spent some time at Fairview, but hated the place. His father, Raymond, worked in Forest Grove and got him into a group home there. A couple of years later, he helped start the first group home in St. Helens (around 1968). Doug was in a home on Columbia Boulevard, just a short walk from Campbell Park. It worked well for Doug and for the community.

I liked Doug. He was genuine, always remembered your name (a failing of mine sometimes), and always glad to see you. There were people he didn’t like, but he usually had a good reason for it. Most of us have someone we don’t like. But Doug was indeed a special person.

Doug passed away three weeks ago at the age of 65. He was just a couple of months shy of his birthday. I’m told he wasn’t expected to live much past his 20s.

Doug helped change the attitude of many towards those with special needs, just by being there. He was a true sports fan, and many of us will always be fans of his.

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