New England icon Doug Flutie suffered a tragic loss on Wednesday when his mother and father died of heart attacks within an hour of each other.
The father of the former Boston College star quarterback and New England Patriot suffered an attack in the morning, and Flutie said his mother died soon after of “a broken heart.”
In a statement, Flutie, who also starred at Natick High School before having a lengthy pro football career in the NFL and Canada, announced the deaths of his parents, Dick and Joan Flutie, who had moved to Florida.
“My Dad had been ill and died of a heart attack in the hospital and my Mom, less than an hour later had a sudden heart attack and passed away,” Flutie wrote on Facebook. “They say you can die of a broken heart and I believe it.”
Flutie, 53, praised his parents for their dedication to him and his three siblings, Darren, Denise, and William.
“My parents were always there for their children, from the days my Dad coached us as kids and my Mom would work the concession stands,” Flutie wrote. “The most important part of their 56 years of marriage was providing opportunities to their children.”
Additional details about the Fluties’ deaths were not available on Wednesday.
Doug Flutie’s admiration for his parents was shared on Wednesday by Tom Lamb, his football coach at Natick High.
“They were like one,” Lamb said of Dick and Joan Flutie, who were in their 70s. “They were always together and feisty and spirited toward each other.”
Lamb said teachers and coaches in Natick marveled at how the Flutie children excelled in sports and academics and were unfailingly polite.
“I can recall thinking that [Dick and Joan] should be writing a book about how to bring up kids,” Lamb said.
The Fluties’ support for their children remained strong as ever last summer, when Lamb said he and his wife visited the couple, who showed them pictures of Doug playing in an over-40 baseball league.
“There’s Joan and Dick at the game watching Doug play,” Lamb said. “It was like a flashback to watching Doug or Darren or Billy or Denise do something. That’s what it was about. It’s just an amazingly close, competitive, hard-working family led by those two.”
Before moving to Natick in 1976, the Fluties had lived in Melbourne. Dick Flutie, an engineer by trade, told the Globe in 1985 that his father had forbade him from playing high school football, fearing injury.
So he took up the organ and played in an orchestra that entertained Spiro Agnew and then-Baltimore Colts coach Don Shula. He dreamed of starting a family band when his children took music lessons but coached them after they showed an interest in athletics.
Tributes also came in from NBC, where Doug Flutie works as a commentator, and Boston College, where he is best known for completing a Hail Mary touchdown pass in 1984 to defeat the University of Miami.
“The entire Boston College Athletics community was shocked and saddened to learn of the deaths of Richard and Joan Flutie, beloved parents of Bill, Doug, Denise and Darren Flutie and grandparents of BC football student-athletes Billy and Troy Flutie,” said Brad Bates, BC’s athletic director, in a statement.
“My heart breaks for Doug Flutie and the entire Flutie family,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “I can’t imagine losing both parents on the same day.”
Globe correspondent Felicia Gans contributed to this report.