Thursday, April 24, 2008

CHS Olympian Floyd Simmons Passes


Article taken from the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER
April 11, 2008...

He missed, at the whim of a movie director, what could have been total immortality. That director preferred Paul Newman for the role of "Brick" in the 1958 Oscar-nominated "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
Native Charlottean Floyd "Chunk" Simmons, just nine days shy of his 85th birthday, died April 1, 2008. His friends gathered Tuesday at Christ Episcopal Church for a final memorial of their friend and for the reception that followed.
Chunk did all right in the Department of Immortals, though. That is, if Olympic medals and a career in athletics and acting means anything. He appeared in about 17 movies and television shows and as Commander Bill Harbison in the 1958 musical "South Pacific" with Mitzi Gaynor as Nellie Forbush.
He was a 1942 graduate of Central High School, where he was a standout athlete who scored five touchdowns in a 1940 game. He graduated from Staunton Military Academy, then went on to UNC Chapel Hill, where sports great Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice overshadowed Chunk's tailback position -- but everyone knew he was there, all right.
`He could go!'
Chunk won bronze medals in the 1948 London and the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. He competed in athletic contests and events for the remainder of his life."He was a good high jumper," said friend Jack Dewberry. "He could go!".
He was also inducted into the 2004 Greater Charlotte Sports Hall of Fame along with the late Dale Earnhardt.
World War II found Chunk in the Army's 10th Mountain Division, which he left with a Purple Heart. After the war, he landed in California to study art, and quickly got involved in the acting life. He was a contract player for Universal-International and counted young actor Clint Eastwood among his best buddies.
He somehow migrated to the island of Tahiti, a tropical paradise which would soon lure actor Marlon Brando. There, an early marriage gave him daughter Suzanne Sloan.
Charlotte was the Lorelei that enticed Chunk's return. His dad, Floyd Sr., was a builder who developed Hermitage Court in Charlotte's Myers Park, where he lived.
He also lived for a time at 909 East Blvd., later owned by Dewey "Red" Tillman. Dewey had a visitor in the early 1980s; it was Chunk, who wanted to tour his old home.
"Some 20 minutes later he returned to my office, dabbing tears from his eyes with his handkerchief," Dewey said. "He said, `Red, you will never know how much this visit has meant to me.' "
A gifted photographer
Chunk, a photographer for 38 years, opened a commercial studio in The Villa on Providence Road in 1983. He specialized in outdoor portraits. He shot weddings, as well.
"He was a fine person and gifted photographer," Paul and Pat Pensabene wrote in his online guest book. "He photographed two of our daughters' weddings. A fine man with a good sense of humor and many talents."
Yes, this man of many talents who had such a varied background returned to his roots and his friends.
You can be sure that his friends gave him a fine sendoff to the Heavenly Olympics, where worn hips and tattered knees are taken into account.
It's a Matter
of Life...
Gerry Hostetler