Marty Sheets, a national inspiration as an embodiment of the spirit of Special Olympics and a member of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, died Wednesday night. He was 62.
Sheets won seven medals in swimming, golf, powerlifting, skiing and tennis in six Special Olympics World Games, including the inaugural Games at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1968. He won more than 250 medals in local, state, national and world competitions.
He is featured in a portrait of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver that hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Sheets was inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
“Marty’s induction was one of the proudest moments ever for the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame,” said Don Fish, executive director of the Hall of Fame. “It is very difficult to describe the emotions that all of us felt that night.
“His achievements were extraordinary. His spirit was amazing. When his father placed his Hall of Fame ring on his finger, everyone there was touched.”
Martin David Sheets was born March 31, 1953 at Raleigh’s Rex Hospital. He weighed 4 pounds, 13 ounces and had Down syndrome.
He met presidents, played golf with Gary Player, skied with Billy Kidd, talked with Pele, played tennis with Arthur Ashe and met Mary Lou Retton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. He also participated in Special Olympic ceremonies with former Duke basketball standout Grant Hill and singer John Denver.
He even was the grand marshall of the daily parade at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
Sheets was awarded the state’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, and was the PGA Tour’s 2006 national volunteer of the year.
He has had dementia in recent years.
The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 501 S. Mendenhall St. in Greensboro.