Charles T. Colgan, longtime executive vice president of the National Steeplechase Association, died Jan. 2 after a brief illness, surrounded by his wife, children, and grandchildren.
He joined the organization in 1971, oversaw strong growth in his tenure as executive secretary and executive vice president, and carried out the move from New York to Fair Hill, Md., in 1989. He retired at the end of 2000.
Born in 1940, he was the second of two children born to Charles P. Colgan and Sabina Kelly Colgan, first-generation Irish-Americans. He grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, and his family was part of a storied neighborhood and period in New York history.
As the son of a member of the Treasurers and Ticket Sellers Union, he had access to a huge array of New York sports and theater events. From the earliest days, he had a deep love of sports and horse racing, cultivated by his experiences at the old Madison Square Garden and New York race tracks, including summer visits with his parents to Saratoga Race Course. He was especially devoted to the Rangers hockey team of his youth.
Charlie was working as a white cap at Belmont Park race track when he first met Audrey Walsh, his future wife, then an exercise rider for her father, Racing Hall of Fame trainer Michael G. “Mickey” Walsh. They married in 1963, raised three children, and celebrated 54 anniversaries together. Their daughter Kelly Colgan and her husband, Peter McDermott, continue the family tradition of professional horse training.
Charlie graduated from Saint Bonaventure University in 1962, served as a captain in the Army for two years, graduated from UNC Chapel Hill Law School in 1969, and practiced law in Charlotte, N.C., before he discovered a way to link his work life to sports. Charlie joined the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association in 1971, and became the executive secretary and racing secretary-handicapper in 1976. He was proud of strengthening the rules and fairness of the sport over his 30 years there.
Charlie appreciated the work of leading sports writers and broadcasters and enjoyed putting what he learned from them to work as the editor of American Steeplechasing. He was a lifelong avid reader and student of history. He loved a good story and told a great many, from the time he held an umbrella for President Kennedy to the ones about colorful characters from the racetrack.
He was the executive director of the Fair Hill International three-day event for 10 years and made good friends there. In retirement, he was active in Saint John the Baptist Holy Angels Roman Catholic Parish in Newark, both as a lector and member of the financial planning committee.
He was most proud of his accomplishments as a husband and father, and the family he and Audrey created. He will be remembered by his wife, Audrey; his daughter Kerry and her husband Neal Shovlin and children Megan and Ethan Shovlin of Lincoln University; daughter Kelly and her husband Peter McDermott of Landenberg; and son Patrick and his wife Ellen Neises and children May and Nora Colgan of Brooklyn; and sister Patricia Colgan.
A visitation will be held at 10 a.m. Monday with a mass at 11 a.m. at Saint John the Baptist Church, 200 E. Main Street Newark, Del.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests a donation to St. John Holy Angels Church, 82 Possum Park Road, Newark, Del., 19711.