Dory Funk Sr.
My Lincoln Continental Mark III left Umbarger Texas traveling northeast on highway 60 headed toward Canyon Texas. It was just after midnight and the speedometer was stuck on 100 miles per hour. It was just minutes earlier that Terry's wife, Vicki had told me that my father wasn't feeling good and Terry had left the Flying Mare Ranch minutes before that to take him to meet his doctor at Canyon's Neblett Hospital.
I was concerned because of the tension in her voice and her comment that Terry thought that he might have had a heart attack. As I sped along the highway, I thought about the last time I had seen him. It couldn't have been more than 30 minutes ago. Gordon Nelson, Les Thornton, and my father were wrestling on the kitchen floor.
It was a party, all of the wrestlers who had worked so hard to make the Amarillo Territory a success were invited to a bar-b-que at my father's Flying Mare Ranch. It was the spring of 1973, some of the wrestlers at the ranch were King Curtice Iaukea, Karl von Steiger, Don Fargo, Danny Miller, Jumbo Tsuruta, Jim Dalton, Referee Ken Farber, Thornton, Nelson, Marie Laverne, Amarillo Promoter Jerry Kozak, Lubbock Promoter Nick Roberts, and Scott Casey. Only Ricky Romero of the regular wrestlers was missing but that was expected as Ricky felt it was best for the business not to associate after work hours with the other wrestlers. He was invited and welcome but his feelings were respected.
The subject of the wrestling that took place on the kitchen floor was a hold called the "Keel Lock," a wrestling hold that was extremely painful, but generally wouldn't cause serious injury. It is a type of wristlock that when applied properly is difficult to escape. My father had applied it to Les Thornton and he had tapped out. I remember Gordy's comment that he would never give up in that hold because pain didn't bother him and the hold really wouldn't cause serious injury.
I remember being proud of my father. He was mixing up with two of the toughest wrestlers in the business and even at the age of 54 he was able to come out on top with these guys however, just as Gordon Nelson said, he could not make him submit to a "Keel Lock."
I hit the breaks as I was now approaching the Y in the road where highway 60 turns from northeast to due east. Now I was just three and a half miles from Canyon, Texas. At a hundred miles and hour, it wouldn't be long.
It was nothing unusual to see my father have a go at it with wrestlers. When I was a child, my Uncle Herman would wrestle my father in the living room and my grandmother Emma Funk would come in swinging a broom to break them up. Later at Texas' Boys Ranch, my father and Bob Geigel got after it at the gym in front of the whole wrestling team, and then there was the time Verne Gagne, Joe Scarpelo, and my father had a go in our garage.
I hit the breaks just in time to make the turn at the underpass in Canyon. I would go straight to 5th avenue and turn left to Neblett hospital.
My father's blood pressure was always perfect. He had the best blood pressure of all the boys in the dressing room. (120/80) Maybe it wasn't a heart attack, but if it weren't serious, Terry would never have called Dr. Moore at midnight and ask him to meet him here at Neblett Hospital. Now I remembered, earlier Terry had told me Dad was upset that Don Fargo was riding his motorcycle over his pastureland, but Dad felt too tired to say anything about it to him and I saw Dad one time earlier in the day almost exhausted after just riding a lawn mower for a few minutes. I should have known something was wrong.
I burst through the door and into the emergency room. All was quiet. Dr. Moore, and Terry were there and my father was sitting up on a hospital bed. They had called the technician who would administer an electrocardiogram. Comment from my dad was that he just felt a little bad and if he could just get home and get some rest, he thought he would feel better in the morning.
The technician arrived and began administering the electrocardiogram. He tore off the paper containing the graphical information and gave it to Dr. Moore. Dr. Moore left the room for no more than 15 seconds. when he returned, he said, "Dory, you have had a massive heart attack. An ambulance is on the way. We are taking you to the emergency room at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo. I want you to relax and go along with everything we are going to do."
My father looked at me and Terry. He said, "I don't think they are right --------. You guys had better keep this one quiet." Terry answered, "Yeah Dad, I know what you are talking about. A lot of people would like to have a piece of our territory. All other conversation was directed toward getting him in the ambulance and on the way to Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo.
We were in the ambulance and headed toward Amarillo, Northwest Texas Hospital was twenty miles away. Dr. Moore was in the front seat and I was in the back on the right side of my father. Terry was on the left. I was holding my father's left hand. I am sure Terry was touching him somewhere.
The ambulance driver was going 65 to 70 miles an hour. I heard Terry cuss him out and in no uncertain terms tell him to pick up the speed and get us to the hospital. Now traveling at 80 and 90 miles an hour, we were passing under Bell Avenue, just five miles and minutes from Northwest Texas Hospital. I heard the last words from my father as he said, "I'm going."
There was a last desperate attempt by Dr. Moore to save his life, but nothing was of benefit. For all practical purposes his life ended there on the Canyon Freeway under Bell Avenue. There were attempts to save him when we arrived at Northwest Texas Hospital but it was all too late. Amarillo, Japan and the wrestling business had lost a legend.
We can't change the past but there are some things we can learn from it. With heart disease the number one killer in the United States today, it makes good sense to make yourself aware of the fastest rout to the hospital with the best cardiac care unit in the area. It makes good sense to learn the early warning signs of heart attack. It makes good sense to take the best care possible of our bodies and start at an early age.
That night under the overpass at Bell Avenue, Terry and I lost our father, our best friend, and business partner.
My match at "50 Years of Funk" is dedicated to you dad. I will do my best. Thanks for sharing your life and guiding us from the little house in Hammond Indiana to the party at the Flying Mare Ranch where together we took our, "last ride."
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