don curtis wrestler

50s and 60s wrestling star Don Curtis, dead at 80

Don Curtis Death – Stroke

1927-2008 (Age 80)

Don Curtis was a grappling great from the ’50s and ’60’s who formed a long-running tag team with Mark Lewin.

Born Donald Beitelman on May 22, 1927 (he later had his birth name changed to his wrestling name), Curtis attended the University at Buffalo, where he competed as an amateur wrestler, captaining the team in 1949 and 1950. He also played football, making him a multi-sport athlete who had plenty to offer as a wrestler.

After training with legendary Lou Thesz, Don Curtis decided to join the pro ranks, competing in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand early on in his career.

Later, promoter Eddie Graham paired him with Mark Lewin, a championship-caliber team that led to two runs with the NWA United States Tag Team Championship. Curtis later formed championship teams with Eddie Graham, Bob Ellis, Jose Lothario, and Chief Jay Strongbow.

Honored in Several Hall of Fames

Don Curtis was honored with inductions into two wrestling halls of fames and the Dr. and Mrs. Edmond J. Gicewicz Family UB Athletics Hall of Fame for his football and wrestling career.

Curtis exemplified the amateur athletes who successfully transitioned into professional wrestling.

The Aging Process Takes Its Toll

Don Curtis and his beloved wife Dorothea lived their last years together in Florida. Curtis was a familiar figure in Florida and not only because of his pro wrestling fame. Curtis gave back to the community as a wrestling coach for a local high school and also refereed AAU matches.

Sadly, Don Curtis’ last years saw him battle dementia. His wife cared for him.

Don Curtis Dies at Age 80

Sadly, Curtis suffered a stroke in 2008. According to the March 10, 2008 edition of Figure Four Weekly, Don’s wife Dottie reported:

a blood clot in Curtis’ head broke loose and hit the left side of his brain. She found him in their bedroom face down in a pool of blood. He was hospitalized and an MRI confirmed a stroke and severe damage. He was transported to a Hospice facility at the Mayo Clinic.

Don Curtis died on March 6, 2008, at age 80. According to his obituary at SLAM! Wrestling, he was survived by:

 his wife Dorothea “Dotty”; son, Donald Richard (Debbie) Ackland of New Zealand; daughters, Elaine (Rick) Graham and Lisa (John) Bailey both of Jacksonville, FL; sister, Helen Small of Buffalo, NY; grandchildren, Erica Graham, John ” J.B.” Bailey, Sam, Tom, Rose, Grace and James Ackland.

Other pro wrestlers who died in 2008 include Chase Tatum, Gary Hart, Killer Kowalski, Mike Bell, and S.D. Jones.

What are your favorite memories of Don Curtis? Let us know in the comments below.