“Digger” Lenley Gene
January 02, 1927 – July 24, 2013
Len “Digger” O’Dell was born in Chelan, Washington, where he went to school, until 1935 when his family moved to Saltair. He completed his schooling in Ladysmith in 1945 and returned to the USA, settling in Bremerton, Port Orchard and Moses Lake. He married Marion Winkle in 1946; his son Rick was born October 26, 1948; they were later divorced. He remarried on May 28, 1951 to Betty Porter; his daughter Linda was born April 30, 1952; they divorced at the end of May 1953. Len moved back to Ladysmith in early 1954, where he met Audrey Lousie Bourque. They married on July 15, 1955 at the Nanaimo Court House. Rick’s mother, Marion McKim (deceased), regained custody September 1955-1959, then Rick came to live with us in Langford.
During Len’s 10 years in Washington, he worked (3 years) on the O’Sullivan Dam driving a belly dump Euclid and then as an auto mechanic in Moses Lake. He built his first engine at 13 years of age, and started auto racing in 1946. Most towns had a dirt track; that’s where he gained his expertise on the oval. He did exceptionally well here on the Island- Shearings, Western Speedway & Nanaimo. He belonged to Racing Associations: MIARA; VARA; VITRA, and was inaugurated into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1986; his son Rick in 1997. He raced from 1954 to 1958, then built engines and cars for a few years, including his son Rick’s first car in 1966. At one point, the four fastest cars in the Trophy Dash had engines built by “Digger” O’Dell.
Predeceased by his son, Rick O’Dell (Jan 15, 2006); his mother, Alma Violet (Hickethier) (O’Dell) Mawson; and father, Jesse Lee O’Dell. He is survived by his loving and caring wife of 58 years, Audrey O’Dell; daughter, Linda (Herman) Fox; grandson, Daniel (Jennifer) Fox; great grandson, Gabriel Fox and great granddaughter, Cale Fox of Siloam Springs, Arkansas; cousins Jim (Ruth) Griffith of Manson, Aaron (Maxine) Hickethier of Wenatchee, Ernie Gehrke of Springdale, Washington; Donna (Chester) McMillin of Springfield, Missouri.
Thank you to Dr. Marta Potts, the Staff at Cowichan District Hospital and our kind and generous friends and neighbours.
On Tuesday August 27, 2013 @ 11:00 AM, at Western Speedway in Langford, we’re going to raise the Checkered Flag for the last time for Digger O’Dell. The Racing Hall of Fame and Museum will be open. There will be a light lunch served and Memorial book to sign.
Looking forward to seeing Digger’s friends and acquaintances… Audrey O’Dell
In lieu of flowers, a donation to The Canadian Red Cross or The Racing Hall of Fame would be greatly appreciated.