Charles Van Winfree, 96, of Longboat Key, died July 31.
Born June 4, 1917, in Hopkinsville, Ky., he became an orphan when he was 14 at the start of the Great Depression and struck out to find work after just eight years of schooling in the grocery business, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and National Guard.
In 1940, he joined Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and married Dorothy Scheb, who went on to become a column contributor at the Longboat Observer in the 1980s and 1990s.
Mr. Winfree enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943, served in Iran and returned home in 1946. He rose through 18 vertical promotions to become vice president of MetLife, which was the largest insurance company in the world when he retired in 1974.
Mr. and Mrs. Winfree went on to begin a series of International Executive Service Corps (IESC) volunteer assignments, completing commercial turnarounds in Honduras, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
By the time Mr. Winfree was 91, he had circled the globe five times, providing advice to many private and government leaders who opposed terrorism and communism. He liked to say that he had two 35-year careers: one before and one after retirement.
Mr. Winfree was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy, and son, Arthur.
He is survived by his daughter, Phyllis Winfree Laidre; sons Charlie Winfree and Dr. Robert Winfree; and seven grandchildren.
Family, friends and caregivers are invited to the Winfree residence between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11. Flowers, donations or other memorials are not expected, but feel free to bring happy memories, pictures or stories to share. For information and directions to the home, call Bob or Charlie Winfree at 383-5771.
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