The New York Times – March 28, 2007
Abe Coleman, a squat powerhouse of a professional wrestler, billed by promoters as the Hebrew Hercules and known to opponents by the two-footed kick he copied from kangaroos, died Wednesday in New York. He was 101, probably making him the oldest professional wrestler, according to wrestling publications.
His death was confirmed by the receptionist at the Meadow Park Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Coleman was active in pro wrestling in the days when people, rightly or wrongly, treated it as a legitimate sport. He weighed 220 pounds, stood 5 feet 3 inches and boasted moves that included the flying head butt and the airplane spin.
But his pièce de résistance was the drop kick, a still-common tactic in which a wrestler turns himself into a human missile. Coleman said he learned it from kangaroos on a 1930 trip to Australia.
He was never a champion, but a middle-card standby who fought about 2,000 matches, continuing into his 50s, according to the Slam Sports Web site. His foes included giants of the 1930s like Jim Londos, with whom he dueled before 60,000 spectators in a Mexico City bullring.
It was an era when an athlete was promoted by his ethnicity, and Londos, the heavyweight champion, was the Golden Greek. When Coleman wasn’t the Hebrew Hercules, he was presented as the Jewish Tarzan.
The Jewish Daily Bulletin in 1934 hailed him as ”a past master of the art of grunts, groans and grimaces.”
Coleman was born as Abba Kelmer on Sept. 20, 1905, in Zychlin, Poland, where his father sold coal. He was one of 16 siblings, some of whom died in the Holocaust. He moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1923 before settling in New York and making do with odd jobs.
In an interview with The New York Times in 1995, Coleman said that a promoter saw him in a gym and asked, ”Hey, boy, want to make $25 tonight?”
Soon he was a favorite of fans in New York, then elsewhere. According to several professional wrestling publications, he once raised Man Mountain Dean, all 465 pounds of him, over his head and slammed him. They fell through the ring to the auditorium floor.
In 1936, he met June Miller, he said, when he was thrown out of the ring and landed in her lap. They married in 1939, and she died in the mid-1980s. They had no children, and Coleman left no immediate survivors.
After wrestling, Coleman inspected license plates for the Department of Motor Vehicles. He was a wrestling referee, played the horses and spun yarns at the T-Bone Diner on Queens Boulevard.
His cauliflower ears attested to a rough past, and family members said that, in his 80s, Coleman fought off two assailants. At his 100th birthday party, The Queens Chronicle said that a nephew asked him if he wanted to wrestle.