Doug Flutie honors parents’ legacy

High school sweethearts married 56 years, Richard and Joan Flutie lived their lives for their children and died just one hour apart.

“It’s not real to me until I drive towards their neighborhood, and then the reality really hits,” said their son, Doug Flutie.

Nearly five months after his parents passed away, the Natick native, former New England Patriot, and Heisman trophy winner spoke with 7’s Christa Delcamp about the moment he received the news.

His father, who had been in the hospital, started failing fast. Flutie raced over at his mother’s urging.

“Jumped in the car, was on my way over. Just before I got to the hospital I got a text from my sister saying “Dad is gone,” Flutie explained. “And then I’m running up the stairs and I get a text from my sister ‘Hurry up mom is in trouble.’ By the time I got the ICU they’re working on mom. It was minutes…minutes.”

Officially, both died from heart attacks, but in his heart, Flutie knows his mother died because her’s was broken.

“If you don’t look at it as a love story, if you don’t look at it that way, that mom died of a broken heart, it will drive you crazy,” he said.

Today, Flutie has made it his mission to pay tribute to his parents.

His foundation for autism named for his son, Doug Jr., is launching an initiative in their memory.

“‘Autism On The Go’ is a new program in honor of my parents, who were always there for us whether it was activities, sports activities, whatever it was, we were a family. They were there,” Flutie said.

The goal is to provide outdoor, athletic and enrichment opportunities for children with the developmental disorder that affects one in every 68 children. Flutie’s now 24-year-old son, Doug Jr., is one of them.

“The first diagnosis was very tough for us because Dougie was typical little boy up until 2 1/2. He was speaking full sentences, could dress himself, whatever. He went from that to within a 3-4 month window, no speech. You couldn’t make eye contact with him,” Flutie remembered.

Today, the football great is hoping to raise autism awareness as a contestant on ‘Dancing with the Stars’, dedicating one of his performances to his son, and another to his parents along with the people of Boston.

“This where I get my strength. My family, the town, the foundation, that’s all my comfort zone,” he said.

Flutie was back at Foxboro last week to raise money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. The event raised $175,000.

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