They were larger than life inside the wrestling ring at the smoke-filled City Auditorium on Friday nights in St. Joseph.
The old wrestlers still were larger than life as they filed into the Price Funeral Home in Maryville on Wednesday to lay one of their own to rest. Harley Race was a mentor to many of these men and an innovator in the ring as well.
Harley Leland Race, was a Quitman, Missouri, native and a popular wrestler known as “Handsome Harley,’”
“The King” and “The Greatest Wrestler on God’s Green Earth” died on Aug. 1 at 76 years of age.
Race was entered in the World Wrestling Federation, World Championship Wrestling, National Wrestling Alliance, and Missouri Sports Wrestling halls of fame. He also held many wrestling titles.
After retiring form the ring, Race opened a professional wrestling academy in Eldon, Missouri.
The funeral home was packed with family, friends and fans coming to pay their respects to a man admired by many in and out of the ring.
The minister spoke of heaven and the songs “One Day at a Time” and “Amazing Grace” were played.
Pro wrestlers Ric Flair and Ted DiBiase gave testimonies to a man they saw as a mentor. They shared stores of his toughness and how his colorful style of wrestling changed the whole sport.
They talked about how Race survived a car wreck and the doctors said he would never walk again, let alone wrestle. He did both.
“He was a man’s man,” said DiBiase.
What began as a rainy morning ended up a sunny afternoon, with stories and memories of Race bringing smiles to mourning faces.
The procession to the Quitman Cemetery, 15 miles away, was long and solemn. Traffic stopped for what seemed like hours.
Just as Race in life made people stop and look with his flamboyant attire and innovative wrestling style, people stopped and looked again in awe as the procession rode past, taking their hero back home.