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Published: Monday, 11/26/2007

Drag race champ was Mr. Intensity among friends

Douglas A. Olrich, 65, a man who did everything with fierce energy, including winning the Grand National Drag Racing Meet in 1967, died Thursday in the Comfort Care Unit of the Lake Park Skilled Nursing Facility in Sylvania.

Mr. Olrich of Toledo died from complications of diabetes and kidney disease.

"He was Mr. Intensity," said his closest friend, Richard Perron of Petersburg, Mich. "He was driven to do the best, to do the most he could get through life with, and he did it his way."

An avid sportsman with a love of racing "anything with an engine," Mr. Perron said, Mr. Olrich also turned his drive toward his family, becoming a personal coach to his daughters when they were in track at Start High School.

"My dad, it was kind of a joke that he had three girls because he was such a sports buff," said middle daughter Cindy Sparks.

So his daughters' track interest was his chance.

"He would get us up in the morning and train us, take us to the gym. We'd pump a little iron," Ms. Sparks said. Then, after track practice and dinner, "it would be back out to the grind. Not all the time did we appreciate it, obviously. We do now."

He was such an avid fan of his daughters, "No one wanted to sit by him in the stands because he yelled so loud," said daughter Carla Majewski.

From 1966 to 1970, he owned Doug's Speed Shop, which sold performance parts for race cars. Over the years, he also worked for Cummins Diesel and Magnum Power Sports.

It was 1967 when his competitiveness captured its biggest trophy. That was the year he won the modified division at the Grand National Drag Racing meet in Indianapolis.

Family lore has it that he used the birth of a niece as his reason to be off the job that day in September.

"He got busted in a big way because he won the National in a big way, and it was all over the papers," Ms. Sparks said.

Family was important to him, his daughters said, and he demonstrated that most clearly when he became a second father to Ms. Sparks' three children.

"My dad stepped in and he was just a constant," Ms. Sparks said.

Tom Shondell of Sylvania, a friend of Mr. Olrich's for years, said, "He was always just larger than life.

Mr. Olrich is survived by his wife of 45 years, Linda; daughters Carla Majewski, Cheryl Burton, and Cindy Sparks; mother, Ruth; sister, Phyllis "PJ" Henson; brothers, Gilbert and Gale, and eight grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Temperance. The Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania, is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes to St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Toledo Symphony, or American Diabetes Association.



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