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Gary Dalton Spruce

Gary Dalton Spruce
November 13, 1934 – September 24, 2022
Gary Dalton Spruce passed away peacefully on September 24, 2022. Gary was born
November 13, 1934, in Mulberry, Arkansas to Mary Louise and Hubert Dalton Spruce.
In 1941, his mother remarried to Frank Montgomery who was in the Air Force. Gary’s
brother Rick Montgomery was born January 27, 1947. During this time, the family moved
throughout the United States. In 1953, he graduated from Alexis I. du Pont high school in
Wilmington, Delaware.
Upon graduation, Gary attended the University of Alabama where he received a Bachelor of
Science in physical education and went on to obtain a Master of Arts in education. During
this time, he was active duty in the U.S. Army twice.
Gary met his wife Virginia at church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The couple married on July 19,
1957. On July 19, 2022, the couple celebrated their 65 th wedding anniversary surrounded
by family and friends.
The couple have two children, Jud Spruce (wife Lori) and Cindy Padgett (husband Robert);
three grandchildren, Rebecca, Katie and Sarah; and two great-grandchildren, Kymber and
Gary taught high school physical education in Alabama before the family moved to Green
Cove Springs, Florida in 1965 when he accepted the positions of athletic director and head
football coach. A year later, he would hold the same positions at The Bolles School in
Jacksonville, Florida.
In 1971, the family moved to Lakeland, Florida where Gary held the positions of assistant
football coach, head track coach and physical education teacher at Lakeland Senior High
Following his four years at Lakeland, he became head football coach at Sebring High School
while teaching physical education and math courses. In 1979, he would make his way back
to Lakeland, Florida where he would live for the remainder of his life. Gary was hired as the
first head football coach and athletic director of Lake Gibson Senior High School where he
coached from 1979 until 1981.
In 1981, Gary began his tenure at Kathleen Senior High School as head football coach. He
would transition to the administration side of education as assistant principal of Kathleen
Middle School and then principal. His career concluded in 2000 as principal of Bill Duncan
Opportunity Center.
Throughout his career, Gary mentored thousands of students. He was particularly
successful in securing hundreds of college scholarships for the high school football players
he coached. Several of the football players he coached went on to be drafted into the NFL.

Gary was highly influential in the development of many of Lakeland’s athletic departments.
He was very often recognized by former students and athletes who always referred to him
as “Coach.” His legacy lives on in the countless lives he impacted.
Gary enjoyed playing golf, lunch dates with school system friends, and cheering on his alma
mater the Crimson Tide. At the center of his life was his family. He was deeply interested in
the lives and successes of his children and grandchildren. His adoration for and devotion to
his wife was apparent to all.
The family is grateful for the compassionate care Gary received from Arbor Oaks at
Lakeland Hills.
The visitation will be held Monday, Oct. 17 at 10 a.m. with the funeral service to follow at
11 a.m. Both will occur at Bethel Baptist Church at 3125 W Socrum Loop Rd. Lakeland, FL

Arrangements entrusted to Veterans Funeral Care.

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