It's an appropriate time to reflect upon some of the pro wrestling personalities who passed away in 2013.
Many represented an era that will forever be etched in the memories of longtime fans.
They touched our lives in many ways. For those of us lucky enough to see them perform, we will never forget them.
They were athletes and performers who lived by the credo that "the show must go on."
Some lived out of a suitcase, spending more than 300 days a year on the road, working the territorial circuits during a time when the profession was much different than it is today.
Others never got to realize their full potential.
Some died far too young.
Angelo Savoldi was the world's oldest living professional wrestler when he passed away on Sept. 20 at the age of 99.
Savoldi, whose real name was Mario Fornini, began his career in the 1930s and became a five-time NWA world junior heavyweight champion. At the end of his career, near the end of the '60s and into the '70s, he worked for WWWF and was a minority business partner in the company.
Pro wrestling lost one of its true legends, the original "King of Memphis," Jackie Fargo, who died on June 24 at the age of 85 near China Grove, N.C.
Known for his "Fargo Strut," the colorful grappler was one of the most popular performers to ever headline the Tennessee territory.
WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler called Fargo a "father figure" and one of the most influential people in his life. "Without the Fabulous Jackie Fargo, there would never have been a King Jerry Lawler," he said.
Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon, one of the greatest heels in the history of professional wrestling, passed away in November at the age of 84.
The growling, gap-toothed tough villain was a former Canadian Olympic wrestler who bit and clawed his way to pro wrestling infamy.
Like Vachon, but nearly a foot taller, Dutch Savage (Frank Stewart) was as rough and tumble as any of the grizzled veterans he locked horns with during his days in the wrestling business.
One of the Pacific Northwest's biggest stars, Savage followed up an illustrious ring career as a successful real estate agent and an ordained pastor who taught King James scripture on public access cable out of Portland, Ore.
Savage, a master storyteller, passed away at 78 on Aug. 3.
Count Billy Varga, who died Jan. 11 in Burbank, Calif., one day after he turned 94, parlayed his many years as a professional wrestler into an acting career.
Varga often played a wrestler, boxing announcer or referee on-screen, including a role in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980).
For nearly 50 years Ron West did practically everything that could be done in the wrestling business. He was one of the most celebrated referees in the profession, as well as a respected booker, events coordinator, front-office man and promoter.
West passed away on May 15 at the age of 65, but left behind many great memories from a life well-served in the wrestling profession.
William Moody, a real-life mortician who gained international notoriety for his role as Paul Bearer, The Undertaker's portly, wild-eyed, urn-toting manager, died on March 5 at the age of 58.
Doug Gilbert, who passed away Nov. 4 at 76, underwent one of the most amazing transformations ever witnessed in the business. From a smallish-sized, high-flying performer to a powerfully built, 300-pound masked behemoth billed as The Pro, Gilbert's enigmatic character took the Georgia territory by storm during the late '60s.
Reid Fliehr, youngest son of wrestling great Ric Flair, was only 25 when he passed away.
"I loved him," Ric Flair said. "He should have been on top of the world, but he was fighting a battle he couldn't win. I hope people remember his laugh, his spirit and his love of life."
Among those we said goodbye to in 2013:
Count Billy Varga, Jan. 11, age 94; Marquis de Pare (Robert Pare), Jan. 16, 78; Billy the Kid (John William Guillot), Jan. 17, 76; Tito Montez (Edward Montemayor), Jan. 30, 78; Farmer Jones (Keith Iverson), Feb. 18, 73; Ciclon Negro (Eduardo Ramon Rodriguez), Feb. 20, 80; Ham Lee (Felipe Ham Lee), March 2, 80; Paul Bearer (William Moody), March 5, 58; Tommy Hanson, March 13, 75; Don Carson (Donald Gaston), March 14, 78; Eric The Great (Dennis Forsland), March 17, 79; Moondog Spike (Bill Smithson), March 21, 62; Charlie McGowan, March 26, 96; Reid Fliehr, March 29, 25; Don Duffy (Donald Quigley), April; 13, 80; Ella Waldek (Elsie Schevchenko), April 17, 82; Ron West, May 15, 65; Mick McManus (William George Matthews), May 22, 93; Buck Robley (Phil Robley), May 23, 68; Hector Garza (Hector Solano Segura), May 26, 43; Mark Starr (Mark Ashford-Smith), June 6, 50; Al Green (Alfred Dobalo), June 7, 57; Jackie Fargo (Henry Faggart), June 24, 85; Matt "Doink The Clown" Borne (Matthew Osborne), June 28, 55; Tinker Todd (Ramon Daniel Napolitano), July 14, 85; Geeto Mongol (Newton Tattrie), July 19; 82; Chuck "Scufflin Hillbilly" Conley, July 26, 75; El Brazo (Juan Alvarado Nieves), July 30, 52; Corey Maclin, July 30, 43; Vic Coleman, Aug. 2, 93; Dutch Savage (Frank Lionel Stewart), Aug. 3, 78; Frenchy Bernard, Sept. 16, 77; Angelo Savoldi (Mario Fornini), Sept. 20, 99; Gene "Cousin Luke" Lewis (Gene Pettit), Sept. 29; Dennis Hall, Oct. 18, 78; "Hardbody" Calvin Knapp, Oct. 20, 43; Doug "The Pro" Gilbert (Doug Lindzy), Nov. 4, 76; Roland Alexander, Nov. 5, 59; Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon, Nov. 21, 84; Princess Salima (Joyce Farhat), Nov. 28, 83; Vivian St. John (Suzanne Miller), Dec. 21, 63.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.
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