Charles Munger

Charles Eldon Munger, 69, died recently after an extended illness.

He was a descendant of Oregon pioneers and a longtime Florence resident. He was known in Northwest drag racing circles during the 1960s and 1970s as “Mr. 409.”

Mr. Munger’s forebears were pioneers who began arriving in the Willamette Valley from Missouri and Illinois during the Civil War era. The McClures, Colemans and Mungers settled near Brownsville, Harrisburg and Sweet Home.

Mr. Munger, who preferred to be called Eldon, was born in Lebanon on Dec. 23, 1936 to Ernestine (Coleman) Munger and Charles Munger.

His parents separated shortly after his birth, and he spent his childhood in Florence where he attended the old Siuslaw Elementary School on Highway 101.

After moving with his mother and stepfather, Curtis Petermen, to Sweet Home, he returned to Siuslaw Valley to spend every summer with his aunt and uncle, Grace and Loda Davis, first at their homestead on Jump Creek and later at the boarding house they ran on the Siuslaw River near Mapleton.

He graduated from Sweet Home Union High School in 1956 and immediately moved to Mapleton where he worked at U.S. Plywood.

He married Maida Irene Milam of Mapleton on July 12, 1958.

His interest in drag racing began in high school with non-sanctioned events held wherever car enthusiasts could find a straight stretch of pavement a quarter-mile long. By 1960, he was a frequent challenger in more formal races at tracks throughout the Northwest, including tracks at McMinnville, Woodburn, Port Orford and Balboa in Eugene.

In 1963, Mr. Munger formed a racing partnership with the late Perry Fox, who owned Fox Chevrolet in Florence, and Bob Freeman, also of Florence. The Munger-Fox-Freeman team raced two cars in several super stock classes, both with the same Chevrolet 409 engine, called a “stump puller” by racing enthusiasts. Their first car was a maroon 1962 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport named “Draggin’ Red.” The second car was a white 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne station wagon, named “Kool Whip.” Mr. Munger was the team’s driver. In a decade of racing, he lost only seven times, including a trip to the NHRA Summer Nationals in Seattle.

The last loss occurred on the day Mr. Munger’s youngest son was born. “I might have been a little bit distracted,” he always said of that loss.

After retiring from drag racing, Mr. Munger continued to tinker with classic cars, including a 1968 Chevrolet Caprice, which won an award at a custom car show in 1973.

He later worked as the service manager at Berg Chevrolet in Florence.

His most recent classic cars were a 1955 Ford Thunderbird hardtop convertible, which he won at Three Rivers Casino in Florence last fall, and his prized 1987 Chevrolet Aero Coupe Monte Carlo.

Mr. Munger was preceded in death by his parents, step-parents, aunt and uncle.

He is survived by his wife, Maida Munger of Florence; daughter, Kel Munger of Sacramento, Calif.; son and daughter-in-law, Chuck and Annette Munger; son, Rob Munger; foster brother, Buck Sparks of Florence; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service was held on June 3.

Memorial contributions may be given to the Florence Humane Society.