Albert Harlen “Tuck” Gudger, Sr., 92, of Asheville, died Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at the Brian Center of Weaverville.
Mr. Gudger was born in Salisbury, NC, son of the late Albert Gorman and Theresa Tucker Gudger. He was also preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Frances “Murf” Gudger, and by his second wife, Olivia “Peggy Jo” Gudger.
Mr. Gudger graduated from Boyden High School, earned a B.S. Degree from Catawba College, then a Master’s Degree in education from UNC Chapel Hill.
Tuck served in WWII as a First LT. Navigator on B-24 Liberator Bombers in the 13th Air Force. He flew 42 combat missions and was awarded the Purple Heart, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Cluster, Presidential Unit Citation, and the Pacific Theater Medal with 5 Battle Stars. After losing half his crew in action, he flew the remainder of his missions as squadron and group lead navigator with the squadron commander.
Tuck’s early life was wrapped up in sports as a player and coach. He lettered in 3 sports in high school and at Catawba College, including playing in the first and second Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. He coached at Kannapolis High School two undefeated seasons in both football and basketball in the same year. He is in the Catawba College Sport Hall of Fame and the WNC Sports Hall of Fame.
The Gudger family moved to Asheville in 1958 when he was appointed manager of the Paul Revere Insurance Office for the next 32 years. He was always very active in the community, serving on many commissions and committees including: the Red Cross, YMCA, United Way, Asheville Community Theater, Pack Square Project, Friendship Force, Asheville Jaycees, WNC Sales Executive Club, Masonic Order, The York Rite Shrine, SCV and SAR, M.A.A.C., Asheville Civitan Club, and the WNC Veteran’s Memorial.
The Miss America Preliminary Pageants were a hobby of Mr. Gudger’s for the past 50 years. He judged 69 state pageants in 48 different states, and was presented a 40 year service pin by the Miss America Organization. Mr. Gudger was also a member of the Country Club of Asheville, and an active member of Central United Methodist Church for over 50 years.
Mr. Gudger influenced many people during his life time. Not only his children, but countless athletes, students, co-workers, and community leaders, as a mentor and friend.
Surviving are his daughter, Cynthia G. Baldwin and husband Bob, of Asheville; son, A. Harlen Gudger and wife Vicki of Moneta, VA; daughters, Heather Jones Wood and husband Tom of Johns Island, SC and Heidi Jones Keys and husband Vernon of Garner, NC; nephew, Wayne Gudger and wife Rosemary of Pembroke Pines, FL; eight grandchildren, Robbie Baldwin of Asheville, Carrie Baldwin of Asheville, Jaime Moorman of Moneta, VA, Lindsey Davis of Newburgh, IN, Jessica and Tanner Wood, of John’s Island, SC, and Parker and Cameron Keys, of Garner, NC; and great-grandchildren, Tyler Baldwin, Evan Davis, Avery Davis and Connor Witt.
A memorial service for Mr. Gudger will be at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at Central United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Dr. Rob Blackburn officiating. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Burial with Military Honors will follow at Lewis Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Albert H. “Tuck” Gudger Endowed Scholarship, Catawba College, Development Office, 2300 W. Innes St., Salisbury, NC 28144.
Groce Funeral Home on Patton Ave. is assisting the family.