Once A Wrestler, Always A Marine
(January 29, 2011)
|KANEOHE, Hawaii (Jan. 26, 2011) - When the Empire of Japan attacked then Naval Station Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, there was no doubt in Donn Lewin's mind what he wanted to do.|
|“My old man said ‘what are we going to do now?'” Lewin said, reminiscing just a few weeks before he died. “I say, I don't know what you're going to do but I'm going to enlist in the Marine Corps. He says ‘you're only 15' and I said I don' t care!”|
The former Marine sergeant, who died Dec. 18, wore many hats, from tropical fish breeder, to bodybuilder, to professional wrestler. But in his heart, many say, he was always a Marine.
Lewin, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., was born April 1, 1926. He fought in several campaigns including Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Guam during World War II, and during his service he received three Purple Hearts.
Although he said he would have liked
Donn Lewin, a former Marine who served during World War II, talks to Marines from 3rd Radio Battalion about his experiences on Iwo Jima before the advanced screening of "Flags of Our Fathers," at the Dole Cannery theater, Oct. 15, 2006. Courtesy photo
|to stay in the Corps, he left after four years, following force reductions after the war. His last duty — an admiral's orderly.|
| After leaving the military, Lewin started bodybuilding and before being a professional wrestler. Nicknamed “The Executioner,” Lewin ended matches with his signature “sleeper hold.”|
Lewin's wife of 36 years, Judy Lewin, first met him at a wrestling match, seeing him in his “executioner” mask.
“I just knew he'd be an interesting man,” Judy Lewin said.
Judy Lewin remembers going on as many as three trips each week with her husband to wrestling matches to different cities. After bigger card matches, the Lewins would dine out and return home to Buffalo, N.Y., to take care of the tropical fish business.
Eventually, they settled in the tropics. The Lewins moved to Hawaii in 1984, and stayed.
“He liked the weather and the people,” Judy Lewin said.
At Lewin's Hawaii Kai home on Oahu, he set up a home gym that he opened to the neighborhood boys.
Lewin also made time for the Corps. After befriending one of the base's past provost marshals, Lewin regularly visited the Military Police Department on base every Thursday up until the last few years. There, he would have a cup of black coffee and chat with the Marines. Many Marine Corps Base Hawaii personnel made it a tradition to eat lunch with Lewin at Mokapu Mall, including base leaders. Lewin enjoyed calzones at Mokapu Mall's Italian eatery until it was replaced.
“He was pissed when it went away,” said Master Sgt. Phillip Frazier, operations chief, Military Police Department.
With the Italian eatery gone, Lewin and friends ordered pizza instead and the tradition and camaraderie continued.
Frazier said he enjoyed listening to Lewin tell stories about the Corps over Italian food, bonding with the former Marine.
In fact, Frazier chose Lewin to help pin on chevrons at his promotion ceremony at the Pacific War Memorial.
Lewin was a true friend, Frazier said.
It was also appropriate because Lewin was in Iwo Jima in 1945, when the famous flag raising occurred.
“How fitting would that be to get somebody who was a veteran of the Iwo Jima conflict to pin my chevrons on?” Frazier said. “I thought that was special.”
Jacque Freeland, anti-terrorism force protection officer, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, spent time with Lewin on Thursdays. She said he often wore Marine Corps related T-shirts for lunch. Lewin, who she described as “extremely patriotic,” would attend nearly every Marine Corps event to which he was invited.
Lewin attended police academy graduations, Marine Corps birthday balls, and the annual Kaneohe Klipper Memorial ceremony.
“He loved the Marine Corps,” Freeland said.
A memorial will be held in honor of Lewin aboard the base later this year.
|By Kristen Wong|
Camp LeJeune Base Public Affairs
Provided through DVIDS
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