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Epilogue | William "Bill" Harry Spanos

Bill Spanos loved to run, but arthritis forced him into gym

SOUTH PASADENA — Bill Spanos would have run forever if his body had let him.

He ran 22 marathons or half-marathons between 1991 and 2001 — all in retirement. When arthritis ate up most of his cartilage, he switched to riding a stationary bike.

Mr. Spanos, a retired AT&T technician who enjoyed feta cheese, eating at Bonefish Grill and watching movies with his family, died Sunday after collapsing at home. He was 76.

"He was a simple man who appreciated simple things," said his son, Mike Spanos.

As an Ohio Bell and AT&T troubleshooter, Mr. Spanos once strapped on climbing hooks and scaled telephone poles. With technology he moved indoors — and put on 20 pounds.

To work it off, he began running. After retiring in 1991, he began training for marathons. He ran what is now called the Cleveland Marathon, finishing the 26.2 miles in four hours and coming in first in his age group. He would retain that pace — about nine minutes a mile — for years.

Mr. Spanos was born in Lakewood, Ohio, the son of Greek immigrants. In 1939, when Mr. Spanos was 6, his family traveled to Greece to visit relatives.

War broke out. Tensions mounted within Greece. By the time they returned to the United States six years later, Mr. Spanos had forgotten most of his English.

He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War. At a dance, he met Helen Tsoufiou, whose parents were also Greek. They married in 1957.

She was always at the finish line of her husband's races, cheering him on. But as his knees wore out, she tried to talk him out of running.

"He wouldn't listen," said Helen Spanos, 73. "He was happy doing it. You get addicted to stuff like this."

Mr. Spanos ran his last race in 2001, not long after he and his wife moved to South Pasadena. "He was bone-on-bone," his wife said. "No cartilage."

Mr. Spanos switched to the gym and the bike. "He would go in there at 4:30 or 5 in the morning and just go," his son said. "He would do it at three hours a crack. Fifty-five to 60 miles a day."

He recorded miles pedaled and calories burned in a log book.

He rode the bike Sunday morning. At about 1 p.m., his wife said, not long after he returned from the gym, Mr. Spanos went into the kitchen to make her a cup of coffee.

He collapsed. Emergency workers arrived within minutes, but Mr. Spanos died that day at Palms of Pasadena Hospital. He had seemed in perfect health, his son said.

This story has been changed to reflect the following correction: The original story misstated Mr. Spanos' middle name.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

>>Biography

William "Bill" Harry Spanos

Born: June 2, 1933.

Died: Feb. 14, 2010.

Survivors: Wife Helen Spanos; sister Elizabeth Madias and her husband Eddy, and Dena Spanos-Hawkey and her husband Philip; daughters Victoria Spanos and Cynthia Chernauskas and her husband Larry; son Michael Spanos and his wife Jerry; and six grandchildren.

Bill Spanos loved to run, but arthritis forced him into gym 02/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 22, 2010 6:26pm]
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