State News

Funeral celebrates life of Lorenzo Charles

Posted July 2, 2011 6:31 a.m. EDT
Updated July 2, 2011 8:15 p.m. EDT

— Friends and family say Lorenzo Charles, who died in a bus wreck Monday, was much more than a talented athlete who made the game-winning dunk for North Carolina State University in the 1983 NCAA championship game.

Wake Chapel Church in Raleigh hosted the funeral service Saturday for Charles, 47, who died when the charter bus he was driving wrecked on Interstate 40.

Despite their grief, family and friends couldn't shake the image of Charles as a smiling child and man.

"Lorenzo always had a smile," his friend Norman Davis said.

"He always had this big, infectious smile," his classmate Shari Bailey said.

Teammate Dereck Whittenburg recalled passing the ball to Charles for his famous, game-winning dunk that led the Wolfpack to a 54-52 victory over Houston in the NCAA finals.

"For the past 28 years, Lorenzo and I have been linked together about one championship moment, and we will be linked together forever," Whittenburg said.

Former N.C. State basketball coach Sidney Lowe and Wolfpack players served as honorary pall bearers. N.C.State men's basket ball coach Mark Gottfried and Athletic Director Debbie Yow spoke at the service.

Charles was buried just one space over from Coach Jim Valvano, nicknamed Jimmy V, in Raleigh's Historic Oakwood Cemetery.

After N.C. State, Charles played for the National Basketball Association's Atlanta Hawks from 1985 to 1986 and then professionally in Europe for about 12 years before retiring from basketball and settling back into the Raleigh area.

For the last 10 years, he was a driver for Elite Coach, a limo, charter bus and car service based in Apex.

Charles kept a sense of humor about his post-basketball career, his niece Ericka Charles said.

"I asked him if he ever drove anyone famous around, and he said, 'Yes, Lorenzo Charles,'" she said.

Friends said they'll remember Charles for more than his basketball career.

"He was a true soldier. He stood close and tight with his friends. He never let you down," his friend Bill Chamberlain said.