Chuck Furno took a whole lot of good players and made them perfect in 1958.
“Just a great bunch of kids,” he said in a 2005 interview. “They were all good players, but we didn’t have any great ones.”
Led by their coach, those Fort Vancouver Trappers went 10-0 on the football field.
Furno, who coached the Trappers for 13 seasons and then become the athletic director for Vancouver schools for 12 years, died Sunday. He was 92.
From historical football seasons to one of the most memorable days in world history, Furno always found himself in the middle of the action.
Furno and his college football teammates at Willamette University became well known for their actions on Dec. 7, 1941.
The day after the Bearcats played the University of Hawai’i, Furno was in a hotel lobby when he saw “flashes going up.” He thought he was witnessing military drills at first. Reality hit soon after.
The Willamette football players quickly turned their focus to guard duty after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Furno and his teammates stayed in Hawai’i for three more weeks, stringing barbed wire along the beach and tending to wounded servicemen.
Soon after the team returned to the Northwest, Furno joined what is now the Air Force and became a pilot. After the war, he remained with the reserves for 30 years.
Furno returned to Willamette to earn his degree, according to his obituary provided by his family. That’s where he met his wife, Zephne “Zip” Given. They were married in 1948. After a short stay teaching in Hermiston, Ore., Furno returned to his hometown. (Furno was born in Vancouver to Italian immigrants in 1921.)
He compiled a 126-35-7 football record at Fort Vancouver. Back then, there were no state playoffs, so the Trappers completed their 1958 season at 10-0.
In 2005, Furno was honored for his contributions to amateur football at the Clark County Chapter of the National Football Foundation. He was interviewed then by Columbian reporter Paul Danzer. This was just a month after Evergreen won the Class 4A state championship, becoming Vancouver’s first state champion.
“I laughed when I saw Evergreen had 10 coaches,” Furno said.
It was not like that in the 1950s.
Football, Furno said, taught him the value of determination and hard work.
Football, teaching, and his military service also gave him and his loved ones plenty of memories.
According to his family, Coach Furno passed away peacefully in his sleep Sunday.
He was preceded in death by his wife. He is survived by his two daughters, Susan Powell of Hillsboro and Janet Leffler of Kalama, as well as four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.