Chargers owner Alex Spanos, the protagonist of a rags-to-riches story, died Tuesday, his family announced. He was 95.
“It is with heavy hearts that the Spanos family announces the death of Alexander Gus Spanos, founder of A.G. Spanos Companies and owner of the Chargers NFL Franchise,” according to a family statement. “Alex passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones on Tuesday morning.”
The statement said that Spanos, the son of Greek immigrants, rose from humble beginnings to become “the top apartment builder across the nation” and the owner of an NFL franchise.
In 1984, Spanos fulfilled one of his lifelong goals by purchasing the San Diego Chargers, and “one of his most memorable moments was watching the Chargers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to play in Super Bowl XXIX,” the family said. Spanos turned over the day-to-day operations of the Chargers to his oldest son, Dean, in 1994.
Spanos was a dedicated family man. He was married to his wife Fay for around 70 years and had four children, 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Fay died in August at the age of 92, but his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all survive him.
“In 1951 at the age of 27, Alex Spanos decided he could no longer support his growing family on $40 per week working in his father’s bakery. So he borrowed $800, purchased a used catering truck and set out on his own by providing catering and support services for the migrant farm workers in California’s Central Valley,” according to a biographical sketch provided by the team.
In 2008, the President of the Republic of Greece, Mr Karolos Papoulias, awarded Spanos the Medal of the Commander of the Order of Honor in recognition of his many contributions to the birthplace of his parents
In the NFL, Spanos served on several committees, including the League’s Expansion and Realignment Committee. He used his influence with other NFL owners to secure Super Bowl XXXII in 1998 and Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003, bringing estimated windfalls of close to $300 million per game to San Diego’s economy, according to the team.
Spanos was born on Sept. 28, 1923, in Stockton, California, one of six children. He pursued an engineering degree at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, but following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Tarpon Springs, Florida. It was there he met his future wife, Faye Papafaklis, who would be by his side for the next 77 years. Once his military service ended in 1946, he returned to Stockton and enrolled at the University of the Pacific where he earned varsity letters in swimming and diving.
Over the course of his life, Spanos contributed generously to charitable causes. One of his most generous contributions resulted in the opening of the Alex G. Spanos Heart & Vascular Center in Sacramento in 2014. He was often the first to offer aid in times of need, donating $1 million dollars to the American Red Cross to assist flood victims in Northern California in 1997 and in 2003 donating $1 million dollars to the San Diego Fire Relief Fund after devastating wildfires ravaged the county.
Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in the name of Alex Spanos to the following charities: American Legion, Karl Ross Post #16, 2020 Plymouth Road, Stockton, CA 95204; The Stockton Scholars Endowment Fund at UOP, University of the Pacific, Attn: University Development/Stockton Scholars, Endowed Fund, 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, CA 95211; The Discovery ChalleNGe Academy, 2922 Transworld Drive, Stockton, CA 95206; or YMCA of San Joaquin County, 2105 West March Lane, Suite 1, Stockton, CA 95207.