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FUNK, DORRANCE WILHELM

FUNK, DORRANCE WILHELM (1919–1973). Dorrance Wilhelm (Dory) Funk, professional wrestler, one of three children of Mr. and Mrs. Adam Funk, was born in 1919 at Hammond, Indiana. During his high school years there he was Indiana state high school wrestling champion for three years and Indiana Amateur Athletic Union champion for a year. After graduating from high school he entered Indiana University, where during his senior year he was elected to the Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame. After serving in the navy during World War II, Funk turned professional and was paid ten dollars each for his initial victories.

In 1949 he moved to Amarillo, Texas, and soon built up a reputation as a "two-fisted buster" who had no qualms about smashing an opponent with a chair; yet while he was intimidating inside the ring, outside it he was noted as a good family man and an outstanding humanitarian. In 1950 Funk began his legendary stint as superintendent at Cal Farley's Boys Ranch. A group of rebellious teenagers had threatened to toss the previous superintendent into the Canadian River, and Farley requested that Funk come "help out" at the ranch for at least two or three months until things quieted down. Funk agreed to do so and invited the young toughs to "work out with him" on the mat, demonstrating his strength by showing the boys holds and other wrestling techniques. He quickly won their admiration, and during his superintendency the population of the ranch was doubled. Funk and his family remained for three years at Boys Ranch, where he served as football coach in addition to his administrative duties.

In 1953, soon after reluctantly leaving Boys Ranch, Funk moved his family to a ranch and country home on land south of Umbarger, in Randall County, adjoining the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Between wrestling tours he continued supporting Boys Ranch and worked closely with the Kids, Incorporated, program in Amarillo. Once he gave a terminally ill girl a large sum of money and treated her poverty-stricken family to an outing at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park, but most of the time he preferred to keep such acts of generosity secret. For the remainder of his life Dory Funk promoted wrestling and encouraged others to take up the sport. On June 3, 1973, while demonstrating a face lock to a friend at his Umbarger ranch, Funk suffered a heart attack. He died shortly afterward at St. Anthony's Hospital in Amarillo. He was buried in Dreamland Cemetery at Canyon.

Funk was married twice. He had two sons from his first marriage and a daughter by his second wife, Betty. His sons, Terry and Dory, followed in their father's footsteps as professional wrestlers; Dory became the only Texan to hold the World Championship belt. In 1974, a year after Funk's death, a scholarship fund was established in his memory at West Texas State University.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Amarillo Daily News, June 4, 1973. Beth Feagles Day, A Shirttail to Hang To: The Story of Cal Farley and His Boys Ranch (New York: Holt, 1959).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "FUNK, DORRANCE WILHELM," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffu24), accessed September 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.