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John Burt Urmston: A Champion of the U.S. and the Industry  

Colonel John Burt Urmston (Ret.)It is with deep regret that CBI Unbound takes note of the passing on Wednesday of Colonel John Burt Urmston, a retired, 30-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, who is best known to those in the health and fitness industry for his involvement with Nautilus Sports Medical Industries, the Sports and Fitness Insurance Corporation (SFIC), and numerous other industry organizations.

Urmston died at the age of 66 of complications due to Parkinson’s disease in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, where he had resided with his wife of 46 years, Carol Jean Rogers Urmston.

A memorial service will be held tomorrow at the Central United Methodist Church in Mt. Airy, where Urmston was a member, and online condolences can be directed to

Born in Chester, Pennsylvania, Urmston attended Northeastern State College, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and, after graduating, became a lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He served as a company commander during the Vietnam War and, during the conflict, was exposed to Agent Orange, which contributed to his developing Parkinson’s.

Upon retiring, Urmston pursued a business career, and, in 1982, joined what was then Nautilus Sports Medical Industries (now part of Med-Fit Systems, Inc.), where, over his years with the firm, he held the positions of vice president of marketing and sales; general manager; chief operating officer (COO); and president. After leaving Nautilus, he joined SFIC, helping to grow the company to insure more than 11,000 fitness facilities.

He also served as: chairman of the Fitness Products Council, supervising the installation of a new White House gym during the Clinton administration; member of the White House Sports and Fitness Council; and president of the U.S. Military Sports Association. Among the many fitness equipment manufacturing companies he consulted with were Paramount Fitness, Quinton Treadmills, EAS Fitness, E-Zone Corporation, Icon Fitness Industries, and Sportwall.

In addition to his wife, Urmston is survived by his mother, Avanel E. Urmston; a son, John David; two daughters, Jennifer Urmston Lowe and Lisa Urmston Perry; and five grandchildren.

A full tribute to Urmston will appear in the September issue of CBI.

- Craig R. Waters is the editor-in-chief of CBI and can be reached at

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