USA Rugby Founding Member, Terry Fleener passes away leaving indelible impact on the game

Thu, Mar 28, 2024, 8:11 PM
by US Rugby Foundation

USA Rugby founding member, Terry Fleener passed away this week, leaving an immense impact on establishing and growing rugby across the United States.

Representing the Western Rugby Football Union in 1975 when USA Rugby was formed in Chicago, Terry was also elected to the first ever Board of Directors. A long-time resident of Colorado, home to USA Rugby Headquarters, Fleener would frequently join union gatherings, games and USA test match event. With a love for the game and particularly the diverse community of players who make up the rugby family, Fleener leaves an indelible legacy

USA Rugby CEO, Bill Goren said on Terry's legacy, "On behalf of USA Rugby and the playing community, I want to offer our heartfelt condolences to Terry’s immediate and rugby family. Establishing the United States Rugby Football Union in 1975 was only one of his many contributions to the game, on so many levels. We’re honored to see where the game has come since, and where it will go alongside the legacy Terry leaves.”

Tribute written by US Rugby Foundation

From founding clubs to national leadership, his dedication was unmatched. We grieve this profound loss alongside his wife Jane, sons Clint and Clay with their families, and all touched by Terry's passion. Everyone knew his smiling nature and absolute dedication to rugby at all levels. Though heavy-hearted, we find comfort in his enduring legacy inspiring the community he cherished. Our thoughts and prayers are with Terry's family and all mourning his remarkable life

Terry Fleener was introduced to the sport of rugby in 1964 when he and a group of fellow aerospace engineers founded the Quad City Rugby Club in Davenport, IA. It was the need to stay fit and the social aspect of the game that initially drew Terry to rugby. There was plenty of local opposition for the Quad City club as Davenport is the home of Palmer College and they were the best in the Midwest at the time.

As a player, every away game in the Midwest was a tour. With the exception of Palmer College, Quad City’s nearest competition was Chicago (200 miles); Madison, WI (250 miles); St Louis, MO (300 miles).

Terry played with Quad City until he relocated to Colorado. The first thing he did upon setting foot on Colorado soil was to look for a rugby club. He hooked up with one of the only two rugby teams in the state, the University of Colorado rugby team.

He played a couple of rugby matches with the University of Colorado before some lacrosse players with the Denver Lacrosse Club, along with a few interested rugby players in the area, wanted to create a third Colorado rugby club. And seeing as they needed players, Terry started playing with them. In the Fall of 1967, the band of rugby players formally organized the club as the Denver Barbarians.

‍Terry had represented the Quad City Club at the Midwest Rugby Union meeting in Chicago in 1967 so he had some knowledge of how rugby organizations were set up. That experience would come in handy for in December of 1967, a meeting was arranged to organize rugby in Colorado.

‍Two significant things came about as a result of the meeting; the organization would be known as the Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union and Terry Fleener was elected as the first president of the ERRFU, an office he held for four years.

‍In the winter of 1967-1968, Terry and another rugby fanatic, Al Osur, were on a ski trip in Aspen, CO. During a long week of skiing, the two determined that Aspen would be an ideal place to have a rugby tournament. The two, with the help of the Aspen Chamber of Commerce, set the date for the first Aspen Ruggerfest in October of 1968. Terry served as the Tournament Chairman for the first 4 years.

‍With Terry representing the Eastern Rockies, he and representatives from Texas, Utah, the Heart of America (Western Missouri and OK), the Ozarks, and the Missouri RFU met in Kansas City in early 1975 and formed the Western Rugby Union. Terry was on the first Board of Directors for the newly formed Western Rugby Union.

‍Later, in June of 1975, representatives of the four regional organizations (Eastern Rugby Union, Midwest Rugby Union, Western Rugby Union and the Pacific Coast Rugby Union) gathered in Chicago to form the USA Rugby Football Union. Terry represented the Western RFU and was elected to the first ever Board of Directors of the USARFU. He stayed on the Board until 1999. While on the Board he served as Treasurer from 1983 to 1987 and as President from 1987 to 1989.

Although he was no longer President of USARFU, Terry was still heavily involved with the game. In 1992, Terry was elected president of the newly formed Pan American Rugby Association. In 1996, Terry was appointed the USA Rugby representative to the Pacific Rim Championship and in 1999 he was on the founding Board of Directors for the North American West Indies Rugby Association.

‍In 2004, Terry joined the Board of Directors of the United States Rugby Foundation. He also served as a Trustee of the Green and White Rugby Trust, the non-profit arm of the Denver Barbarians Rugby Football Club. Terry remained an avid and lifelong member and supporter of the Barbarians and was much admired and respected within the club.

Terry knows that the game he has been heavily involved in for 50 years will continue to grow.

‍“Seeing little kids playing the game from Hong Kong to the valleys of Wales and in the United States assures me the sport will carry on for many years. The lessons the sport teaches are very important, but the most unique thing about rugby is the people that are involved. I have made many wonderful lifelong friends and those friendships transcend geography, nationality, race, age, gender, and all of the other characteristics that define a human.” - Terry Fleener

‍Outside of rugby, Terry was also a member of Engineers Without Borders and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

‍In 1999 Terry retired as Director of Marketing for Ball Aerospace, a company in Colorado developing products for the civilian and military Space Programs.

‍Rest in Peace, Terry. You will be missed.