The Obit For Charlie Futrell

Charlie Futrell: IronMan competitor became triathlete in his 60s

By Bianca Prieto
Orlando Sentinel
August 21, 2012

By all accounts, Charlie Futrell was an extraordinary athlete.

In his 60s he became a triathlete. In his 70s he placed in his first IronMan competition. As an octogenarian he won several world titles.

And in his 90s he continued completing with the fervor of those a third his age.

"He was definitely an inspiration for all the younger athletes," said Fred Sommer, owner of Sommer Sports in Clermont. "It's probably what helped him to live longer. The drive to keep training…he was always a special part of the race."

On Sunday, 92-year-old Futrell, a resident of The Villages, died from complications of a hip condition.

While Futrell held many jobs and titles during his long life — husband, father, war veteran, school teacher and coach — he will most likely be remembered for his outstanding abilities as a senior athlete.

"He was a natural athlete," said son Bob Futrell. "He had super quick reflexes."

Futrell was a Greenville, N.C. native and played two sports at East Carolina University in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

He left to join the U.S. Air Force where he served for four years, then returned to play baseball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Futrell briefly played professional baseball before he started his teaching and coaching career in Laurel, Md. While Futrell was educated to become a teacher, his heart was in sports, his son said.

After retirement in the 1970s, Futrell packed on the pounds.

On a whim, he purchased his first pair of running shoes from a bargain bin for $3. A quick jog left him out of breath, his son said.

That was the catalyst that rejuvenated his athletic spirit.

Since 1980, Futrell has competed in more than 400 road races from 5Ks to marathons. He has competed in more than 120 triathlons and completed four IronMan competitions in Hawaii.

In February 2011, became the oldest person to finish a USA Triathlon-sanctioned race with a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 38 seconds.

"He was always the last one to finish," Sommer said. "We'd be in the middle of the awards ceremony, but we'd stop what we were doing and rush over to the finish line to cheer him on. He was a big part of the race."

Former Clermont resident and fellow senior athlete John C. Taylor said he will miss Futrell at upcoming competitions.

"I really liked Charlie," said 91-year-old Taylor who now lives in Atlanta. "We'd win back-and-forth. The first time he beat the socks off me, but I worked harder."

Futrell is survived by his son, of Georgetown, Texas; his daughter Allison Clair of Brandenburg, Kentucky and five grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Peggy.

A memorial service will be held at the New Covenant United Methodist Church at The Villages on Sept. 1 at 1 p.m.

The family asks that those who wish to make a donation in Futrell's name do so to the New Covenant United Methodist Church Building Fund, 3470 Woodridge Drive, The Villages, FL, 32162.