MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota's own Stan Kowalski, World War II veteran and former professional wrestler, passed away on Friday at 91 years old.
Stan "Krusher" Kowalski was originally born Bert Smith in Minneapolis. He went to North High School and his family says he joined the Navy when he was about 17.
He went to the University of Minnesota for journalism, and had his first pro wrestling match in 1950. He wrestled for 26 years, according to family. They say he also worked as a police officer in the '60s and spent decades advocating and speaking on behalf of the United Way.
“My dad lived for his family, but he always strived to help anybody that needed help," said his daughter, Stacy Smith. "My Dad’s compassion for everyone and everything never faltered, not even in his last week. The world has lost a hero. The community has lost a hero.”
Kowalski's family says he also devoted his life to fighting for other veterans.
Scott Smith, his son, said he has been surprised by the impact his father's passing has had on others.
"The outpouring that has happened in the last 48-72 hours," he said. "I’ve seen grown men come to him and cry over him. I didn’t know he was a hero to everybody else.”
Kowalski's wife, Cleo, passed away in 2012.