Family remembers Howard Dolphin
By Mike Vlahovich
The memory is etched indelibly in the minds of his family: Howard Dolphin, rake in hand and lost in reverie, grooming some 500 feet of beachfront along Liberty Lake.
He may have spread other chores around, "but the one thing he liked doing was raking the beach," said his youngest daughter, Denise Coyle.
"I think he found solitude doing it," Howard's widow, Mary Floy, said. "He said he solved a lot of problems."
Dolphin died last month at age 86, leaving behind a legacy that, like a diamond, had many facets.
Most who knew him saw him through the lens of high school teacher, athletic director and Hall of Fame track and field coach.
But as a child of the Depression, he learned early the value of hard work, not only out of necessity, but for the rewards it could bring.
When he and Mary Floy wed nearly 64 years ago, he married into a family whose name was synonymous with Liberty Lake - the Neyland family dates back more than a century. For 30 years, Dolphin helped operate Sandy Beach Resort before it transitioned into a mobile home park.
He was both doting father and grandfather, who passed along values with a velvet hand, say his daughters, Coyle and Leslee McLachlan.
"My dad was a phenomenal track coach," Coyle said. "But more than anything, he was a phenomenal man who loved his wife more than anything."
The Neylands put their stamp on Liberty Lake in 1902 when Daniel and Louisa moved from Pennsylvania. Mary Floy said they can't pinpoint how they got there, "but I'm glad they did."
Her father, Homer, bought two miles of beach front and 180 acres, much of which he subdivided and sold after moving from Seattle in 1940, when Mary Floy was age 12.
He developed Sandy Beach Resort, which included rental cabins and boats and the water system that runs from Molter Road to the lake. Today, the system and 60-lot mobile home park are watched over by Denise. She and her husband, Tim, live in the original home, twice moved and since renovated, across from her mother's house on the beach.
In 1961, the Dolphins and Mary Floy's sister and brother-in-law, Betty and Joe Trembly, who live just up the hill from the resort, purchased Sandy Beach Resort from their parents.
"Some years, we (barely) made the payment," Mary Floy said. "But we never missed a payment to my dad."
Howard and Mary Floy Dolphin were honored as grand marshals of the 2004 Liberty Lake Fourth of July parade, an honor that has represented a who's-who of Liberty Lake's history since it started in 1989. Mary Floy's mother, Della Neyland, was the 1993 honoree (Homer passed away in 1971).
During a 2 ½-hour sitdown with Mary Floy and her daughters, the anecdotes about life at the lake flew, too many to recount here. A sampling:
Howard and Mary Floy Dolphin traveled to Olympics around the world, to numerous national track meets and to meets in Eugene as late as last year. He died on their 31st visit to their "second home" condominium in Honolulu on the day high school track season began.
"God took him too soon," said a tearful Mary Floy.
"He's still here; he's with us," Coyle comforted.
"But I can't touch him," said her mom.
Howard Dolphin, a man in full, touched the lives of thousands.
FOR MORE: Read Howard Dolphin's obituary