Dieter Steven Oleson

1944 – 1993

In 1993 our club lost Dieter to a heart attack in Pell, Alabama. I shared these thoughts at his memorial service and later posted them on my racing web site.

A few years later I received a message from someone seeking Dieter. As it turned out, it was Dieter’s son who wanted more information. In a curious coincidence, I’d been given Dieter’s cameras after he died. When I learned about his son and his own interest in photography, I packed them up and shipped them to Nevada, where the young man lived.

Even though this eulogy is not related to Stephanie or Patrick, I plan to begin sharing past eulogies like this on the chance that people may discover other connections, just as Norman’s daughter has done and I have done.

Let’s face it, Dieter Oleson was quite a character. He believed that life began at red line–then you wound it up from there. Dieter did everything at 110%, from serving as a red beret in Vietnam to trying his hand at marriage (four times) to helping his racing friends and family.

Dieter, born in Berlin in 1944, survived the Allied bombing raids but died of a heart attack in Pell, Alabama. He and his family were brought to the U. S. by H-Production driver Tom Eddleman in 1953. Initially a shy boy, Dieter quickly grew into a hell-raising, fun-loving, barrel-chested hulk of a man. Thanks to his step-dad Tom, Dieter grew up surrounded by racing, a sport he loved passionately his whole life.

Dieter served as a valuable addition to Cal Club’s flag team for many years. As wild and crazy as he played when off-track, once cars entered the course Dieter took his flagging seriously. You always knew where you stood with Dieter. Working with him you learned he accepted no compromises to safety. You also learned how to be serious while still enjoying entirely too much fun.

There will always be Dieter Oleson stories to tell, like the time he showed up at Riverside Raceway, surgical steel pins sticking out of his toes, to flag at a driver’s school. Or the time he joined the Michigan Turn Marshals in Atlanta, shaking a collection of car parts and bellowing “I’m working the chum line!” Or the time he explained why he carried so much cash to the track. “I carry it in case my dad’s car breaks and we need parts. My dad loves racing and I’m gonna make sure nothing keeps him from it.”

When something unexpected lands in your lap, we have an expression in southern California racing: “Dieter did it.” Dieter’s death was not only a blow to his family and friends and Cal Club and SCCA; everyone who crossed his path will remember Dieter Oleson. Lying on the tarmac near his truck in Alabama, our buddy embraced death. Yes, Dieter did it–and we’re all going to miss him.