Ric Odegard, remembered as a business leader and a ‘great ambassador’ for the Spokane region, dies at 81

Richard “Ric” Odegard, a former banking executive who was a prolific business consultant and community…

Richard “Ric” Odegard, a former banking executive who was a prolific business consultant and community steward in the Spokane region, died last week. He was 81.

The Snohomish native died Saturday following a year in which his progressive dementia accelerated, said his son Mark Odegard.

Ric Odegard, a former executive for the now-defunct Seafirst Bank, served in dozens of positions on business, education and community boards and campaigns.

Ric Odegard and his family moved multiple times during his childhood to a number of places in California and parts of Washington.

His adult life was similar as he climbed the ranks at Seafirst, moving with management promotions until first landing to Spokane in 1978. The family moved briefly around two years later before coming back to stay in 1983.

“He thought it would be better for the family to find a place to stay and told his bosses he wasn’t going to move anymore even though he knew that would hinder his career from there forward,” he said.

Odegard retired in 1996 from Seafirst Bank after 29 years, having served as executive vice president for Seafirst in Eastern Washington.

While it’s now Avista Stadium, the ballpark was renamed in the ’90s from Fairgrounds Ballpark to Seafirst Stadium, thanks to a deal Odegard helped negotiate.

Seafirst’s merger with Bank of America – and the change in culture with becoming a national institution – was part of what prompted Odegard to retire at 55, Mark Odegard said.

The brand died off around 1999, according to the Seattle Times.

From there, Odegard was a board member and interim CEO for the former Tidyman’s Inc. supermarket chain. Tidyman’s, founded in 1968, went out of business in 2006.

In addition, Odegard served as an executive for the former Spokane-based Farmers & Merchants Bank. That later was purchased by Banner Bank in 2007.

A former president and chairman of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce, Odegard also chaired campaigns promoting bond levies for Spokane Public Schools District 81 and a capital campaign attempting to raise funds for a proposed multimillion-dollar science center in Riverfront Park.

“He was proudest of his work on the school levies and being able to help contribute to education,” Mark Odegard said.

Odegard is survived by his wife of more than five decades, Kay, and his three sons, Mark, Cory and Eric. The family is working out plans for a memorial, which wouldn’t take place until possibly later this spring.

“He was the best. I always looked up to him in every way,” Mark said. “What he meant to me was just being relatable to everybody and focused on being a good person in treating everybody well and taking care of his family.”

Odegard had a role on the committee that hired Rich Hadley in 1993 as president of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce. Hadley served as chamber president until his retirement in 2014.

Hadley – who led chambers of commerce in Colorado, Montana and Minnesota prior to his arrival in Spokane – remembers how he and his wife, Rita, were personally welcomed and introduced to the area by Ric and Kay Odegard after driving in from Minnesota.

“He was a great ambassador for this region, because of his love for it and his outgoing personality and communication skills,” Hadley said. “He was a tremendous business and civic leader for this region … He sold me on Spokane, that’s for sure.”

Bobby Brett, owner of the Spokane Indians and Chiefs, can recall how Odegard was once called in to help settle a dispute between Chiefs ownership and management for the old Spokane Coliseum a few years before the coliseum was demolished in 1995.

Brett said Odegard needed just 30 minutes to help them reach a resolution.

“He was that type of guy. He was really smart. Just a really good person,” Brett said. “Low-key, never got excited. and just a guy that I always really, really admired – that I think all of us wish we could have a little Ric Odegard in us.”Greg Mason can be reached at (509) 459-5047 or [email protected].