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Friday, February 14, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Warren Westlund; Former Olympic Champion With Go-For-It Courage

When Warren Westlund led the University of Washington's four-oared crew down the Thames River to win gold in the 1948 Olympics, he did it with spirit and optimism.

In the past few months, when it became clear Mr. Westlund was in a race he couldn't win, he showed the same go-for-it courage, friends and family say.

Mr. Westlund, an auto dealer and lifelong sports enthusiast, died yesterday after a long illness. He was 65.

Mr. Westlund graduated from Roosevelt High School, where he was student-body president and a well-known athlete. He tried crew when he went to the UW and was described by a coach as the "spark plug of the whole outfit." He was on UW junior varsity and varsity crews until his graduation in 1950.

"He was always outgoing, always upbeat," said Bob Will, a fellow crew member during the 1948 summer games in London and lifelong buddy.

He was also something of a joker. Will remembers Mr. Westlund leading the crew in short-sheeting the bed of a particularly unpopular coach. The crew also included Bob Martin, Gordon Giovanelli, Al Morgan, the coxswain, and Norm Buvick, the alternate. In 1988 several of them, including Mr. Westlund, celebrated the 40th anniversary of their Olympic victory by returning to London for the Royal Henley Regatta.

Rowing is very different than it was in those days, the former athletes said in a newspaper report of the reunion. Being a world-class oarsmen now is a full-time job, Will said. "We were just a group of college kids having a good time."

In later years, the two oarsmen were business competitors - Mr. Westlund at Warren Westlund Buick-GMC; Will at University Volkswagen-Audi-Subaru.

Mr. Westlund was "an all-around good fellow, truly a good fellow," Will said. "I don't know anybody who knew him who didn't like him. He was one of those able people, able in business and as a community leader. Anything he did, he did well."

For the past 32 years, Mr. Westlund was on the university's Board of Rowing Stewards, a group of former crew members who support rowing there. He was elected to the UW Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981. Later, he was elected to the National Rowing Hall of Fame. He served as president of the Alumni Big "W" Club and a member of the Tyee Board of Husky football boosters. He also belonged to the Seattle Tennis Club.

Mr. Westlund was past chairman of the Seattle Automobile Show, past president of the King County and Washington State Automobile Dealers' Associations and trustee of the state Auto Dealers Insurance Trust. He was named Time Magazine's Quality Dealer of the Year in Washington.

Survivors include his wife of 41 years, Pauline; daughter and son-in-law Mary Anne and Timothy Osborn of Seattle; daughter and son-in-law Christine and George Beito of Bellevue; son and daughter-in-law Brian and Judi Westlund of Issaquah; son Mark of Seattle; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Westlund of Lake Oswego, Ore., and seven grandchildren.

There will be a memorial service at 2 p.m. Tuesday at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 4805 N.E. 45th St., Seattle.

Private burial will take place at Lopez Island Cemetery. Remembrances may be sent to the Lopez Island Cemetery Association, P.O. Box 21, Lopez Island, Washington, 98261.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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