Darryl Ellingson, a Santa Rosa insurance salesman and one-time Olympic hopeful, has died. He was 77.

Ellingson died early Monday after a more than three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

"He was diagnosed in September 2009," said his son, Matthew Ellingson of Reno. "He did pretty darn good for a man his age."

His insurance career spanned 45 years.

He co-owned Ellsingson and Jones Insurance Co. with partner Sam Jones from the late 1960s until it was bought by a large Palo Alto company in the early 1990s.

More recently, he worked as an agent at George Peterson Insurance until his semi-retirement about five years ago.

In the 1950s, he played football and ran track at USC. He narrowly missed competing in the Olympics when he pulled a hamstring before qualifying, his son said.

"He was a tremendous athlete," said banker and longtime friend Bill Reinking.

Ellingson was born in Los Angeles in 1935. He went to Dorsey High School and then USC. He was voted the Los Angeles area high school athlete of the year in 1953.

He met his wife of 50 years, the former Florine Trombetta of Santa Rosa, while at USC.

After a stint in the army in which he was sent to Korea, the couple moved to his wife's hometown to raise a family. They had a son and a daughter, Krysen Heathwood of Larkspur.

"I coaxed him into coming back to Santa Rosa," his wife said. "My dad got him a Lucky Lager beer distributorship. It was a great beginning."

Five years later, he got he got into insurance, opening a firm with his father-in-law's nephew, Alfred Trombetta.

He ran it for 10 years before going into business with Sam Jones.

"He had a very charismatic personality and loved being around people and helping people in any way he could," his daughter said.

When he wasn't working, Ellingson continued his life-long pursuit of athletics. He coached track at Cardinal Newman High in the 1970s and was a longtime member of the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club.

His other interests included deep sea fishing, body surfing and music.

In addition to his wife and two children, he is survived by his two sisters, Shirley McInaney and Susan Scott, both of San Jose, and two grandchildren.

A funeral is 1:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Eugene's Cathedral in Santa Rosa.

-Paul Payne