The Town of Windermere mourns the loss of a former mayor and city council member, Gene Spears, who was also a dedicated Windermere Rotarian known for his powers of persuasion. Spears died on Monday June 7 at the age of 91.
Charles Eugene Spears served on Windermere City Council as a council member from 1986 to 1993, then as mayor for the next three. He was a chartered accountant and retired from Martin Marietta in 1992 as a director with 35 years of service.
Spears was born January 12, 1930 in Clio, Alabama, the second of seven children to farmers Howard and Thelma (Carter) Spears. His family moved to Winter Garden when he was in elementary school, and he attended Winter Garden public schools until he graduated from Lakeview High School in 1948. In Lakeview, he played football and baseball.
The Spears family lived on Foster Street in a small area of the historic Winter Garden known locally as Pull Tight; the house remains in the family today.
He graduated from Bowling Green College of Commerce (Western Kentucky University) with an accounting degree in 1951 and from Florida State University with an MBA in 1952.
He served in the United States Navy and Navy Reserve and retired as a lieutenant commander. While stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, he met his 65-year-old wife, Ann Sughrue. They married in 1955 and lived in Windermere throughout their marriage and had three sons and a daughter.
Spears lived most of his life in West Orange County, where he remained active in civic events.
Her fellow Rotarian from Windermere, Judy Black, remembers her dedication to the Windermere Rotary Club.
“He was there every Tuesday morning until his wife got sick a few years ago,” she said. “He sat at the same table Tuesday morning with the same group of guys.
“One of his main… duties in Rotary was to secure sponsors for all fundraising,” said Black. “He was a very strong member as he was able to solicit sponsors from community leaders to support whatever we did. He raised a lot of money. He didn’t take no for an answer. … He appealed to all the businesses in town and submitted them to a donation for an event. … He was a very enthusiastic fundraiser.
She remembers Spears attending all Rotary dinners and events and always showing up with his wife.
“They were just a cute couple,” Black said. “They were such a great couple.”
Another Rotarian, Norma Sutton, said Spears has been a big contributor to the club, performing financial audits every year. He was a Paul Harris Fellow and was one of the Rotary Club members who celebrated the club’s 40th anniversary by building the back porch of Windermere Town Hall.
Spears was also instrumental in bringing the Windermere Little League to the city, when he and several other fathers got together and organized the program in 1971. His three sons played baseball there.
Spears was a longtime parishioner of the Resurrection Catholic Church in Winter Garden and a member of the West Orange Country Club in Winter Garden.
In retirement he enjoyed golfing, fishing, boating, traveling, attending and watching all FSU sports and spending time with his wife and family.
“During their 65 years of marriage, our parents have always been a wonderful example of love, commitment and dedication,” said daughter Barbara Spears Hamre. “My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and he cared for her for about six years.”
Spears is survived by his wife, Ann; sons, Charles of Ocoee, John and Nancy (Dougherty) of Windermere, Paul and Alicia (Ulibarri) of Orlando; daughter, Barbara and David Hamre of Windermere; his sister, Glynda; five grandchildren (Alexander, Austin, Hunter, Paige and Savannah); and a great-grandchild, William.
He is predeceased by his brothers Bob, Raymond, Jack, Billy and Michael.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, June 22 at the Resurrection Catholic Church, 1211 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Winter Garden. A funeral service will follow at Winter Garden Cemetery.
The family is asking for commemorative donations to be made to the Alzheimer Research Foundation.
The Observer has invested in new technologies, so that you can enjoy a more personalized online experience. By creating a user profile on OrangeObserver.com, you can manage settings, customize content, enter contests and more, all while continuing to enjoy all the local news that interests you -.