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Steve Christilaw: Dolphin, Welliver teach us plenty about passion

UPDATED: Wed., May 17, 2017, 2:26 p.m.

If there’s a magic ingredient to leading a long and happy life, it would have to be passion.

If there is one trait common among the successful, that would be it: passion.

As the great philosopher and poet Jon Bon Jovi put it, “Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you do with your life, be passionate.”

Joining a hair band, apparently, is optional.

But he’s right.

If someone could find a way to bottle passion, it would be an instant success. Passion is the common denominator successful people share. Same with happy people.

More so than even ragweed or pollen, passion is contagious.

Two men with that infectious form of passion have crossed my desk this week.

Howard Dolphin was one of those guys who spread passion everywhere he went.

For almost 60 years the longtime East Valley track and field and cross country coach touched young lives, encouraging them to find their own passion – most often through running.

Dolphin found ways to inspire young men and women. If that meant going to their parents to secure their involvement in one of his sports, he would. If that meant finding summer jobs, there were always leaves to rake at Sandy Beach Resort on Liberty Lake, the property he owned with his wife, Mary Floy.

Dave McCarty tells the story about how he landed the job as East Valley cross country coach – with Dolphin resigning suddenly to create an opening for his former runner-turned-teaching colleague.

The Hall of Fame coach died in 2014 at 86, but his legacy lives on. Many of his former athletes have gone on to become coaches themselves – a list that includes his son-in-law, longtime West Valley track and cross country coach Jim McLachlan and first-year University track coach Ernie Aguilar.

East Valley boys track coach Brandon Blize is just the third coach in the history of the school – and the second in a direct line of succession from Dolphin.

“Howard was Dave McCarty’s coach and Dave McCarty was my coach,” Blize said. “The blood runs very green in the East Valley track program. I lived for eight years at Sandy Beach (in Liberty Lake) in the corner house and had the opportunity to have many conversations with Howard over that time, always about track and coaching. I am privileged and honored to have coach Dolphin and coach McCarty as mentors in my life, and hope to keep the traditions they started at East Valley going into the future.”

Blize spearheaded an effort to ensure that Dolphin’s legacy at EV will live on, and on June 6, during a ceremony beginning at 5:30 p.m., the school will officially dedicate the Howard Dolphin Track Complex.

Hillyard’s Chauncy Welliver is another of those passion-filled people working to make the lives around him a little richer.

Welliver owns Hillyard Hammer’s BoxFit, moving his successful boxing gym from North Division, where it was a growing success, to Hillyard because his passion for his home neighborhood burns brightly.

Welliver is putting on a fundraiser June 3 to benefit a youth boxing program at the gym.

Always a colorful attraction inside the ring, Welliver is finding success now as a teacher and coach. His most successful boxer, Pat Ferguson, features prominently in the event at the Roxie, 5201 N. Market St.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., entertainment begins at 6 and the main event begins promptly at 7.

Ferguson went from being a novice boxer to the U.S. boxing champion in record time. At the fundraiser, Ferguson, now an undefeated professional, will go several rounds with James Toney, a 13-time world champion who was twice named Ring magazine’s “Fighter of the Year.”

Welliver makes no secret of his deep and abiding passion for the neighborhood where he grew up – taking it as his nickname into rings around the world. There are bunches of boxing fans in New Zealand who couldn’t spot Market Street if they tripped over it, but they know Hillyard because of Welliver.

The night of sparring and entertainment at the Roxie will fund “The Small Ring Kings,” an amateur boxing group Welliver has started for youngsters at his gym, with money raised going to help fund scholarships for low-income aspiring boxers.

Boxing was the path Welliver used to go from Hillyard to the larger world.

He is working to make it into a similar path for another generation.


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