Thursday, July 9, 2015

V 5 N. 64 Lon Spurrier 880 WR has passed away

Lon Spurrier Photos   (includes a great pic of him setting his WR

Something about the name 'Lon Spurrier'  just connotes to me the words, 'fast, flowing, swift, speed, track'   I never saw him run.  I had to look up his record to even be aware of a few facts about him.  But that name was one of the few that ever said to me ,  'pure , raw, running ability'.  

Lon Spurrier passed away on June 23, 2015.   A Celebration of his life will be held in the Bay Area July 12, 2015, see link above.   We just heard about it tonight and went google searching for some background.   Lon graduated from Delano HS in California in the early 1950's.  He was a child of Dust Bowl migrants to the state of California.  He went on to U. of California at Berkeley with a limited background in track.  He had  finished sixth in the state meet in his third try at 440 yards.  Lon just got better and better and in 1955 had his best year  setting a WR in the 880 in 1:47.5 and running on two WR relay teams .  He got second in the Pan Am Games 800 in Chicago that year and ran on the winning 4x400 team with J.W. Mashburn, Jim Lea, and Lou Jones.   In the Melbourne Olympics he finished 6th in the 800 in 1:49.3.   He went on to get an M.B.A at Harvard and worked on Wall Street before returning to the Bay Area in California.  Below is an article from the San Francisco Chronicle.   Our sympathies to his family.
Lon Spurrier with Bill Dellinger, Jim Bailey, Deborah Kerr, and Ron Delany
(from Mr. Dellinger's collection)

From the San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2015
Lonnie V. Spurrier
May 27, 1932 - Jun 23, 2015
Lonnie V. Spurrier (Lon), a proud Cal graduate who set the world's record in the 880 yard run in 1955, passed away peacefully on June 23rd at the age of 83. A world class athlete, he represented the United States in the 800 meters, during the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne Australia, coming in 6th.

Lon was born on May 27, 1932 in the rural farming community of Douglas County, Missouri. He was one of six children of John and Golda Spurrier, who migrated to the Central Valley of California during the Dust Bowl, eventually settling in the agricultural town of Delano, about a half-hour north of Bakersfield. He grew up playing sports like his two older brothers, and when he graduated from Delano High in 1950, he had established himself as an all-around athlete playing Varsity Football as halfback, Basketball (named outstanding defensive player of the year), and both Baseball and Track. Lon was also active socially in high school where he was Student Council President and voted by classmates as best all-around senior boy. In his senior year, he was encouraged by his high school coach to switch from Baseball to Track, where he participated in a wide variety of events. Track proved a natural fit, and by the end of the season he'd set the school record in the low hurdles, and finished 6th place in the California State meet in the 440, the third time he'd ever ran that distance.

It was at the University of California at Berkeley, under the tutelage of legendary Cal track coach Brutus Hamilton, that Spurrier's newfound interest in track flourished. He won the Pacific Coast Conference 800 title in 1952 and tied for third in the NCAA that year. He was named an All-American.

In 1955, on the clay and cinder track at Cal's Edwards Stadium, Spurrier set the world's record in the half-mile with a time of 1:47.5. Later in 1955 he won a silver medal in the 800 at the Pan American Games, and ran on the gold medal winning 4Ã-400 relay team. In 1956, he ran on two world's record setting relay teams: the 4 x 440 yard (mile relay), and he anchored the 4 x 880 yard (two-mile relay) record setting team. And, in the 1956 Olympics, Spurrier finished 6th in the 800 meters while also one of six members of the US 1,600 meter relay team that won the gold medal. He was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.

After graduating from Cal, he joined the US Air Force where he earned his wings as a jet pilot and the rank of Lieutenant. He attended Harvard Business School, and moved to Manhattan where he began his career in financial management on Wall Street, before returning to the Bay Area and making his home in Orinda.

Friends, family, and teammates remember Lon as a great friend, a mentor, and a very upbeat person. He remained physically active throughout his adult life, playing tennis and continuing to run until he suffered a serious back injury in his late 60's. He was an avid fan of UC Berkeley athletics and regularly attended Cal football games and track meets throughout his life. He went on to become the President of the Big C Society.

Lon is survived by his loving wife, Ida Lee Spurrier, and their two children: Randy Spurrier and Dana Spurrier. Lon also leaves behind two grandchildren, Jack Spurrier and Amelia Spurrier. In addition, Lon leaves behind many treasured life-long friends, neighbors, business colleagues, and teammates.

A celebration of Lon Spurrier's life and memory will be held at 1pm, Sunday July 12th at the UC Berkeley Alumni house. More information can be found at:
Published in San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2015

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