BY BRENDA WARNER ROTZOLL STAFF REPORTER
November 1, 2002
Edward "Moose" Cholak became a wrestling star at Chicago Vocational High School and went on starring for 40 years as he took part in 8,000 matches, in 1963 becoming world champion.
Variously called Moose, Golden Moose and Yukon Moose, he was a wrestling fixture across the Midwest and on television. The Calumet Beach Inn tavern he inherited from his father was a neighborhood fixture on the Southeast Side, where he was born.
No, folks, he wasn't nicknamed Moose because he was born in Mooseville, Maine. There is no Mooseville in Maine, although there is a town named Caribou. His wife suspects wrestling promoters came up with that tale.
One sure thing is that he always was a big moose of a guy. He stood 6 feet 2 inches and weighed 260 pounds when he was a tackle on coach Ivy Williamson's University of Wisconsin football teams in 1949 and 1950. A decade later he stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed in at 360, telling sportswriters firmly, "Now this isn't fat, this is maturity."
Mr. Cholak died early Thursday at St. Margaret's Hospital in Hammond, Ind., of pneumonia that developed after he suffered a stroke Oct. 22. He was 72.
He grew up in a neighborhood full of people who, like his father, were of Croatian ancestry. He went to Chicago Vocational because he wanted to be an engineer. His college career was cut short by the Korean War, where he served as a Seabee--doing engineering--in the Navy. In 1952 he was All-Navy heavyweight champion in boxing and wrestling, the only time one man held both titles.
In high school he was all-city wrestling champ, and he was an AAU amateur champion. He was in an amateur match while in the Navy when he was spotted by a Canadian-born Indian wrestler, Chief Don Eagle, who asked if he'd like to turn pro.
As soon as Mr. Cholak got out of the Navy, Chief Don Eagle called him and his new career began. He wrestled in 8,000 matches between 1953 and 1987, an era when the sport evolved into television entertainment. In 1963 he won the International Wrestling Association championship in a match in Japan, defeating Rikidozan.
He also worked for 20 years for the City of Chicago as an engineer, from 1976 to 1996, and whenever he wasn't wrestling at home or on the road, worked nights and weekends at the family bar until he sold it in 1980.
That's where he met his wife of 45 years, Arlene. She and some of her high school friends had gone there for the Friday night fish fry, and he was just back from the Navy, helping his folks. They courted for five years and married in 1957.
His last five years with the city he was on disability leave with a severe knee injury suffered when he fell over equipment on the job.
Mr. Cholak was a wrestler with a college education and an inquiring mind. In the early 1960s he attended lectures on Zen Buddhism that Alan Watts delivered at the University of Chicago. Then he went to Lake Forest to hear novelist Aldous Huxley talk about visionary experience. He said Huxley had taken LSD and was hallucinating. Mr. Cholak went backstage and when Huxley learned he had heard Watts, made him sit down and they talked for an hour about Zen and Watts.
Survivors in addition to his wife are a daughter, Kathleen Cholak, and a son, Steven.
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Elmwood Chapel, 11200 S. Ewing. Services will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Annunciata Church, 11128 Avenue G, with burial in St. Mary's Cemetery, Evergreen Park.