In the summer of 1970, twenty-eight-year-old Richard (Dick) Vetter made history. That summer, he joined Muscatine Special Olympics (MSO) to run the fifty-yard dash on their newly formed track and field team. “He was one of the original first. They took them down to Keokuk for track and field,” recalls MSO Director Jason Miller. At that time, Special Olympics Iowa had only held competitions for two years.
Now, almost fifty years later, Vetter continues to make a name for himself with MSO. At seventy-eight years-old, Vetter still actively competes in many sports, including bocce, basketball skills, snowshoeing, softball skills, and of course, track and field. Along with his athletic talents, Vetter also helps recruit and coach new athletes and keep MSO before the public eye. For his years of dedication to the program and the effort he put into helping it succeed, Vetter became a member of the Special Olympics Iowa Hall of Fame on December 2nd, 2019.
Miller explained that after the Special Olympics Iowa Hall of Fame opened in 2018, he and the other MSO coaches knew they had to nominate Vetter for his years of hard work. “The Hall of Fame is for athletes and volunteers who have made a difference at the state or local level, and I think Dick is the best example of that,” said Miller.
As one of the MSO’s most experienced athletes and a good leader, Vetter does a lot to attract and help teach new athletes. Miller elaborated, “because of his character, he’s able to recruit athletes and encourage athletes. He’s a voice that people listen to—when he tells an athlete to do something, they do it.”
Outside of practices and competitions, Vetter also promotes MSO to the community, helping them to see through his personal experiences just how much the organization benefits its athletes. “There isn’t anywhere we can go that someone doesn’t recognize Dick Vetter,” joked Miller. “Really, we like to use him as the face of our organization. . .. He’s a great PR person–he can go, shake hands, thank volunteers and visitors. It means a lot more coming from him than coming from me.”
After Miller and the staff of MSO nominated Vetter, they kept it a secret until he got accepted, giving him the thrill of his life. “I was very surprised to be in the hall of fame!” Vetter shared. As someone who loves, “everything!” about MSO, making it into the Special Olympics Iowa Hall of Fame represents a dream come true.
Outside of MSO, Vetter previously worked at Hy-Vee and now enjoys his retirement at Sunnybrook of Muscatine. Vetter loves getting involved with many social activities both where he lives and around the community. “Everybody’s been so nice to me here!” he emphasized.
Over the years, Vetter has done much to grow MSO and to make Muscatine a friendlier, more inclusive place to live. He has earned his place as a hall of famer and a Pearl of Muscatine.