Historian Don Luce passes away at 84

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2023/04/27/historian-don-luce-passes-away-at-84/

Historian Don Luce has died at the age of 84.

In an obit by Greg Oliver at SLAM Wrestling, he noted that Luce began watching wrestling in 1951 and launched a newsletter, Grunt and Groan, in 1960 and ran it for three years.

Luce was known for his penchant for digging up obscure wrestling results, tracing the lineage of performers under multiple aliases, and having a deep appreciation for the late 19th and early 20th century of the profession, often sharing his findings with his peers.

In 2018, Luce was honored at the annual Cauliflower Alley Club convention as that year’s recipient of the James C. Melby Historian Award. Past recipients of the award included Dave Meltzer, Scott Teal, Tom Burke, and Steve Yohe.

Upon receiving the award, Jon Langmead wrote a profile on Luce’s career for the SLAM website that included the endorsement of the late J Michael Kenyon, who noted:

(Luce) has done more to advance the understanding and knowledge of professional wrestling history in this country than any other five people.

Alongside wrestling, his other passion was baseball, which he found a similar desire to trace its history. This love of the sport led him to join the Society for American Baseball research, but ultimately, had to choose and opted to maintain his time of preserving the history of the mat game.

Along the way, Luce gained a network of fellow historians that would share their work, doing the heavy lifting of maintaining the real history of an industry built on fabrication and exaggeration.

One of those historians to draw inspiration from Luce is Pat Laprade, who shared the following thoughts on Luce’s passing with POST Wrestling:

I have the utmost respect for Don Luce. He really paved the way for wrestling historians and wasn’t shy about sharing his work. We met a few times in Amsterdam, NY for the Pro Wrestling HOF and in Las Vegas for the CAC, and it was always nice to talk to him about the Montreal territory. His research about Montreal wrestling in the early part of the 20th century was also very important when Bertrand Hebert and I worked on our first book. He will be missed.

Another is Matt Farmer, who runs DEFY Wrestling and reflected on the loss of Luce:

We lost a true pioneer of a wrestling historian with the passing of Don Luce. Though I did not know Don well, I always looked forward to the emails Don would send and our correspondence. I first came across Luce’s work when J Michael Kenyon introduced me to his work, then as time grew introduced me to Don. He had a knack for researching some really obscure towns in search of an appearance or two of a certain wrestler he was tracking. Looking at some of the emails he sent me over the years I see places like 1911 Iowa, 1941 Wichita, Miami 1951, random Jim Londos results, and of course our memories of JMK. 

Some readers will think about research and how easy it can be. A click of a mouse here, a click there that sends one down a rabbit hole of results. Don came from an era where you had to correspond by mailing letters, programs, or newsletters. Traveling to libraries so you can go through microfilm or stacks of old newspapers. With his passing, we’ve lost another link to wrestling’s past. For all the work that Don Luce did during his life, he has given us such a strong foundation to continue to put the pieces of wrestling history together. 

This past Monday, Luce succumbed to a heart issue at Buffalo General Hospital.

We send our condolences to all of Luce’s family and friends. 

Below is the obituary posted on the Gilmartin Funeral Home website:

Donald W. Luce Jr, 84 of Batavia, passed away on Monday, April 24, 2023 at Buffalo General Hospital. He was born May 22, 1938 in Buffalo, to the late Donald W. and Ruth (Yager) Luce Sr. He is preceded in death by a sister Judith A. Murnan.

Don retired from Amax in Cleveland, OH. He was a Professional Wrestling and Baseball Historian, writing many articles in different publications. Don proudly served in the National Guard. He loved old TV shows, westerns and old west history. Don took great care of his family and he will be missed.

Don is survived by siblings, Marjorie (Rick) Dorman of Albion, Charles Luce of Batavia, two nephews, Ben (Kristine) Heintz, James Heintz and several great-nieces.

Friends are invited to call on Thursday, May 4, 2023 from 10 to 11am at Gilmartin Funeral Home & Cremation Company, Inc. 329-333 West Main Street, Batavia, New York 14020. An 11:00am Celebration of his Life will immediately follow. He will be laid to rest in Grand View Cemetery, Batavia.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department, PO Box 44, East Pembroke, NY 14056 or to Genesee County Animal Shelter, 3841 West Main Street Road, Batavia, NY 14020. To leave an online message of condolence please visit www.gilmartinfuneralhome.com. Arrangements completed by Gilmartin Funeral Home & Cremation Company, Inc. 329-333 West Main Street, Batavia, New York 14020.