My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mr. Guttman, who must be going through much pain as a result of the passing of a member of their family who escaped the Holocaust, contributed so much as an American citizen, only to pass away in a state of dementia in an assisted care living facility.
I cast no aspersions to the owners or care givers as I have never been to the facility and I have not read anything to suggest a lack of care (although if recent reports are true and the incident that resulted in a broken hip to Mr. Guttman took place in front of a nurses station, it does make me wonder).
I am also very saddened for Greg, Kathy, and Donna Gagne who are dealing with this tragedy and the media spotlight it casts on their father.
I have strong feelings and memories for Verne and the Gagne family. I was given the chance to break in to the business and learn it from the ground up as a result of the opportunity that Verne gave me when he hired me in 1987.
My wife and I became friends with the Gagne family during my employment there and I can honestly say that some of my best memories and experiences in the wrestling business were the early days of my career working for Verne. I had the opportunity to spend time hunting with Verne and Greg (and a trip or two that will go down as all time greats with Wahoo McDaniel and Ray Stevens) and get to know them as people as well as my employers.
When I left the AWA to go to Turner in 1991, it was only after sticking it out as long as I could from a financial point of view and Verne knew that. I went with his full support.
My family and I owe very much to Verne. If it weren’t for Verne Gagne, as Hulk Hogan once said “Eric Bischoff might be selling meat door to door”.
And I’m not alone. When one looks at the who’s who of the wrestling business over the last 25 years, one would be hard pressed not to acknowledge Verne, as a reason the business still exists to this day.
But that is not really the point I want to make here.
Above all that Verne has accomplished as an athlete, father, and a businessman, the Verne Gagne that I know was one of the most generous and caring people I have ever met. He gave tirelessly to the community and was passionate about supporting the community where he lived.
Verne Gagne deserves better.
I promised myself that I would refrain from my usual rant when it comes to the media, but as the days go by I am getting more and more angry.
Perhaps if the State of Minnesota and Hennepin County where Verne built the home he invested his life work in and wanted to retire, hadn’t forced him to give up his property for a fraction of its market value by invoking an act of socialism known as “eminent domain” (for those who don’t know Verne had a spectacular home on a large acreage that the State/County wanted as a park on Lake Minnetonka just west of Minneapolis), Verne and his family would gave been better able to provide for Verne’s care without having to live in an assisted living facility.
Perhaps that’s the story the media should focus on: that despite the hard work, contribution, and self made success of an individual like Verne Gagne, the State of Minnesota and Hennepin County can force a then 62 year old man to take pennies on the dollar for his life’s work, and end up in an assisted living facility in such a tragic situation. Perhaps that would help shed some real light on the real story that has made victims of the Guttman and Gagne family.
I am grateful to Verne and the Gagne family for everything that I have been able to provide my family. Nothing will tarnish the respect I have for Verne.
I am also grateful for the Guttmans who obviously empathize with Verne and his condition and who are responding with such grace.
And our thoughts go out to Greg, Kathy and Donna.