LA GRANDE — La Grande has a new memorial to the late Doug Trice, the community volunteer who lifted young people to greater heights without raising his voice.
Wednesday night, Sept. 7, the La Grande City Council voted to rename Community Field at Pioneer Park in honor of Trice. The name change took effect immediately.
Councilor Mary Ann Miesner said this is an excellent way to salute the legacy of Trice, an award-winning Special Olympics coach and a hall of fame athlete who died in his sleep at his La Grande residence May 6, 2020, at age 68.
“He touched a lot of lives in this community,” Miesner said.
The field’s official new name is Douglas Trice Community Field.
Lin Casciato, a retired La Grande High School teacher and a softball coach, said it is fitting that Trice’s name will precede the word “community” because he gave so much to the one in which he lived.
“I think it is a great honor,” Casciato said. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this.”
The La Grande Parks and Recreation Department began pursuing the name change after receiving a recommendation to do so. An electronic survey showed overwhelming support for the name change, and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission voted to recommend the name change to the city council.
Trice’s contributions as a Special Olympics coach were far from overlooked during his life. He was named an assistant coach for Team USA at the World Games in Shanghai, China, in 2007. That same year he received a Governor’s Gold Award from Gov. Ted Kulongoski for his work in Special Olympics. Four years later, Trice was selected as a Special Olympics coach for Team USA in Athens, Greece.
Six months before his passing, Trice was inducted into the La Grande High School Tiger Booster Hall of Fame. He was recognized for his Special Olympics work and his athletic accomplishments.
Trice was a star running back for the LHS football team in the late 1960s and later made his mark at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. At WOU, then named Oregon College of Education, Trice became the school’s all-time leader in all purpose yardage. He had more than 5,000 yards in runs from scrimmage, receiving and punt and kickoff returns.
Western Oregon inducted Trice into its athletic hall of fame in 2006.
He graduated from WOU in 1974 with a degree in education. Trice, however, never worked as a professional teacher because he landed a job with Union Pacific Railroad after college and stayed with it until he retired. Trice once told The Observer that working in the Special Olympics program allowed him to put the teacher training he received at WOU to good use.
The volunteer often praised La Grande High School coaches for letting Special Olympic athletes practice on their track with Tiger athletes. He said it was a thrill for his Special Olympic competitors. He added the athletes get excited by the attention and respect they receive from varsity high school athletes and coaches.
“It tells them they are also quality athletes,” Trice told The Observer.
The LHS track coaches Trice worked with included Joe Sandoz of La Grande, who applauded the council’s recent decision.
“It is an excellent way to honor a very high achieving person who dedicated his life to serving the community,” said Sandoz, a retired La Grande High School teacher.
Sandoz added that Trice was an example of resilience when he faced challenges.
“He always found a way to keep his chin up and put a smile on his face when things were difficult,” the former teacher and coach said.
Trice, ever humble, deflected praise as well as he evaded tacklers on the football field, but Casciato said he would be pleased to see the renaming.
“He would be tickled pink,” Casciato said. “He would be smiling.”