Robert P. Fuller, coach, Shore businessman


Robert P. Fuller, a prominent Eastern Shore businessman and former athlete who coached the University of Virginia's lacrosse team to a national championship, died Friday of lung disease at his home in Oxford. He was 76.

"My father was never really a supertalented athlete or businessman. He just never saw limitations," said Wade R. Fuller, his son and former business partner.

The elder Fuller grew up in Baltimore, where his interest in sports developed as a boy. He attended the St. Paul's School, where he was captain of the lacrosse, football and wrestling teams before graduating in 1939.

He then went to the University of Virginia, where he played lacrosse and started as a fullback on the football team.

In World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps in Europe, earning a Legion of Merit award.

After the war, he coached lacrosse and football at the McDonogh School and St. Paul's School while working on an education degree at the Johns Hopkins University.

In 1943, he and Virginia Wheeler were married. She died in 1985.

After graduation from college in 1948, he worked as a line coach for the University of Virginia's football team and took the lacrosse team's head coaching job. In 1952, his never-say-never coaching approach led the lacrosse squad to what was considered then to be a national championship.

"He took care of business in a very calm, cooperative way," said Gordon Jones, 65, captain of the 1952 University of Virginia championship lacrosse team.

L Mr. Jones said Coach Fuller's concern went beyond the field.

"He was like a father figure to me and an awful lot of other people," Mr. Jones said. "He wanted to spread himself out to everybody, and he did."

After the lacrosse championship, Mr. Fuller moved to Manchester, Conn., where he was a plant manager and later became board chairman and chief executive of Lydall Inc., a fiberboard products company.

He also served on the boards of many Connecticut businesses until he retired from his company in 1975. He moved to Talbot County in 1975 to enjoy the fishing he did there as a boy, but ended up starting a car dealership with his son there, as well.

He also was a director of the Talbot Bank in Easton and was a member of the Easton Rotary Club. He served on the board of the Talbot County Free Library and on many other local boards.

In 1985, he was awarded the Easton Publishing Co.'s Community Service Award, followed by the Sports Illustrated Import Dealer of the Year Award in 1990 and the Talbot Chamber of Commerce's Businessman of the Year Award in 1994.

Upon his death, family members discovered that he was a member of the "7 Society," a secret charitable organization at the University of Virginia.

Services are scheduled at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Church of the Holy Trinity in Oxford.

In addition to his son, Mr. Fuller is survived by a sister, Priscilla F. Menzies of Ruxton; a daughter-in-law, Midge Fuller of Easton; and a grandson, Perry Wade Fuller of Easton.

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