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Charles Cella, longtime Oaklawn president, dead at 81

Charles Cella, a longtime president and chairman of the Board of the Oaklawn Jockey Club, has died of complications from Parkinson's disease. (Photo courtesy: Oaklawn Jockey Club)

Charles Cella, a longtime president and chairman of the Board of the Oaklawn Jockey Club, has died of complications from Parkinson's disease.

His sons say Cella died at his home in St. Louis surrounded by family. He was 81.

“At this time of great sadness for our family, we find comfort in knowing that one of the great joys in his life was seeing Oaklawn develop into a national treasure with such a significant economic impact on Arkansas," Cella's family released in a statement. "In addition to the holidays with his family, his favorite time of the year was always the Oaklawn racing season with fans, horsemen and staff.”

In 1968, Cella took the lead at Oaklawn, developing it into one of the largest and most respected racing centers in the nation.

He also served as president of Southwestern Enterprises, Inc. and Southern Real Estate and Financial Company and owned and raced several notable Thoroughbreds, including 1995 Breeders’ Cup Turf champion Northern Spur.

He is survived by his two sons, a daughter and eight grandchildren.

Arrangements will be announced once they are finalized.

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