Nineteen years ago the W Club newsletter at the University of Western Ontario portrayed R.M. (Dutch) Decker as the man of many hats.
What an apt descprition! In a sports career that spanned more than 50 years, Dutch did it all — player, coach, instructor, official and administrator.
He’s one of those true hometown heroes. Born in Rochester, New York on October 30, 1922 he came to London as a child and attended Central Collegiate where he played basketball and tennis. From that point he built a jam-packed career resume that would earn him the reputation as one of London’s favourite sports figures.
It’s difficult to match his accomplishment of officiating in three sports — basketball, tennis and volleyball — at the international level. He called his job as crew chief of the scoring and timing table in basketball at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal as the highlight of his career.
Probably Dutch is best known right across Canada for his basketball officiating. His colourful style and his decisions were sometimes controversial but he never left any doubt as to what he was calling. He officiated for 52 seasons including 20 senior Canadian finals before illness forced him to retire in 1988. He died a year later, the victim of cancer.
Everybody around town knew Dutch. At one time, he did play-by-play of Western football games for CFPL radio. He wrote a column on basketball and covered high school sports in the early 1940s for the London Free Press and later did a sports program for CFPL-TV. After graduation from Central and service in the RCAF, he joined the London YM-YWCA where he served as an instructor for 13 years.
What followed was a 44-year attachment at Western where he had been a basketball player in his student days. During those years he coached basketball, badminton, tennis, golf, curling and volleyball in addition to heading up intra-mural sports and activities.
He founded the London Basketball Referees Association and the annual award to their outstanding official is named in his honour. He also was a founding member of the Ontario Board of Approved Basketball Officials and was the first director of the Canadian Basketball Officials Association, representing Canada on the executive of the International Board of Approved Basketball Officials for 14 years.
Dutch is a member of the United States Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts and was inducted into the UWO’s W Club Hall of Fame in 1997.
“My vocation,” he once said, “Is my avocation. That’s from whence my reward has come. It’s been such a pleasure. There’s nothing I’d rather have done.”