Charles "Chuck" Cherundolo, 96, of Lakeland, Fla., and formerly of Old Forge, one of the founding fathers of the National Football League, died peacefully Saturday in Lakeland from heart failure. His wife, the former Margaret Ellen Whitehead, died in 1985.
He was born Aug. 8, 1916, in Old Forge, son of the late Pasquale and Maria Patoli Cherundolo, and grew up with his parents and siblings, John, Vera, and Rosella, at the family home on South Main Street in Old Forge. Chuck graduated from Old Forge High School at the age of 16 in 1933. He attended Penn State University
, having graduated in 1937, with a degree in Physical Education. He later completed a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology.
He stood out as a great athlete and football was his sport of choice. At Penn State he started as a center and middle linebacker, was captain of the team in 1936, named to several All Star teams, and was named as an Honorable Mention All American. After college, he played in an All Star game with such notables as Vince Lombardi and Peter Carlessimo. He began his professional football career by playing for the Cleveland Rams. After three years he signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles for $250 a game, one of the highest salaries paid in professional football at the time. He played in his first Pro Bowl game in 1942. His career was interrupted by World War II
, as Chuck volunteered to serve in the Navy, where he was responsible for training new recruits. When the War was over, he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He continued his outstanding play through the years and was a true leader of the Steeler organization. In 1947 he was named team captain and team MVP, as he led the team to the NFL Championship. That was the Steelers first championship and the best franchise finish of all Steeler teams before 1970. He was named again as a consensus All Pro at center along with Bulldog Turner. He retired from playing in 1948, and coached in the league for 22 years, with the Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, and as a head coach in the Continental Football League with the Midland Michigan Tri City Apollos. He resumed his NFL coaching career with George Halas and the Chicago Bears in 1980 and coached there until he retired from the game in 1985. In 1992 he moved to Lakeland, Fla., to live with his daughter, Pat, where he remained until he died. He was the fourth oldest living NFL Football player when he died, having outlived his peer group players from the Eagles and the Steelers.
Over the years he received numerous awards and honors. In addition to his All Pro accolades, he was named to the Greater Scranton Area Athletic Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Athletic Hall of Fame. He was chosen to the All Legends 1940-1950 team at Pittsburgh and to the All-Time Legends Pittsburgh Steeler Team in 2007, being honored as the greatest Steeler Center to have played at Pittsburgh before 1970. He was chosen to represent the United States to present a series of Football clinics in Germany and other European countries, as the European Football League was being established.
He met his wife and love of his life, Margaret Ellen Whitehead, while they were serving in the Navy during the war. They were married on Sept. 17, 1945. Marge was serving as a WAC at the time. Even though Marge passed away in 1985, he talked about her often and never lost his love for her. He is survived by two children, Patricia Ann Cherundolo, Lakeland, Fla.; and John Cherundolo, and wife, Betsy, of Syracuse, N.Y.; and three grandchildren, Allison, Leanne and James "J.C."
He was also preceded in death by his siblings, John Cherundolo, Vera Sindico and Rosella Phillips.
The funeral with full military honors will be held Monday at 9:15 a.m. from the Victor M. Ferri Funeral Home, 522 Fallon St., Old Forge, followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 10 in Prince of Peace Parish at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, West Grace and Lawrence Streets, Old Forge. Interment services will follow at Cathedral Cemetery, Scranton.
Friends may call Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers contributions be made in his name to Cornerstone Hospice of Polk County, 2590 Havendale Blvd. NW, Winter Haven, FL 33881.
To leave an online condolence, visit www.ferrifuneral home.com