SPRING HILL — After three decades of time-consuming work in the real estate business, David Sturgill was ready to begin enjoying retirement.
Mr. Sturgill sold his Century 21 real estate business to friends in 2007, and almost immediately started to pursue his passions — old and new. He liked to sing, sail, ski, travel across the country in his recreational vehicle and fly his small airplane, just to name a few things. "He didn't take full advantage of doing some of those things when he was running his business," said Gary Schraut, a close friend and local Realtor. "But in retirement, he was living his life to the fullest."
His life came to a surprising end early Wednesday. Sturgill died after having suffered a massive stroke while flying an ultralight aircraft Monday. He was 61.
Mr. Sturgill had been flying his aircraft near the Hernando County Airport about 2:30 p.m. Monday when he became seriously ill, authorities said. He was able to land the plane safely on the runway at the airport, slowly guiding it to the gate near the on-site fire station. When firefighters rushed to meet him, Mr. Sturgill was already in the throes of a stroke.
He was taken to Spring Hill Regional Hospital, where he was in intensive care until he died Wednesday morning, said Marilyn Pearson-Adams, a friend and president of the Hernando County Association of Realtors.
"This has been a very tough week for us," said Pearson-Adams, also referring the slaying last week of local real estate appraiser Steven Floyd Van Slyke. "We've had two great losses. David was a gentleman and a man of his word."
Born in Kentucky, Mr. Sturgill moved to Hernando County in the late 1970s. He had started out professionally as an engineer but changed careers, choosing to work in real estate. He bought a real estate company from a longtime friend in 1979 and renamed it Century 21 David Sturgill.
Mr. Sturgill and his company seized on the rapid development of the scrubby land in Spring Hill. In later years, Sturgill also moved into contracting and building.
"He was an icon in the real estate world of Hernando County," Schraut said. "I could honestly tell you that for many, many years, I looked up to him as a leader. And I still do."
But friends said that after years of tireless work in real estate, Mr. Sturgill was eager to settle down and enjoy an early retirement. His wife, Teresa, had died a few years earlier, and Sturgill lived with his mother, Wilma Sturgill, in a new home that he had built near Hernando Beach.
Mr. Sturgill sold his business to Pearson-Adams and a few other associates in 2007. From that point forward, Mr. Sturgill spent most of his time pursuing his other interests. Many of them, according to friends, involved the water.
"He always dreamed of spending a lot of time on the water," said Vladimir Hucko, a friend and former co-worker at Century 21.
But Mr. Sturgill also had a fondness for flying. He got a pilot's license several years ago and owned a small aircraft, the one he was flying on Monday.
"He was doing what he loved," Schraut said. "And even still, when he got sick, he got that plane down, didn't harm anyone and got as close to the fire station as he could. Not too many people could have pulled that off. But that's what you expect of David Sturgill." There will be a memorial service at 5 p.m. Friday at Brewer & Sons Funeral Homes in Spring Hill. The funeral will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at Northcliffe Baptist Church in Spring Hill. A reception will follow in the Fellowship Hall. Pearson-Adams said the family has requested that donations be made to a local charity of choice.
Mr. Sturgill is survived by his mother and two grown stepsons.
Joel Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6120.