Donahue Wildman, “The Fittest Man in America over 75,” has died at the age of 83. Wildman’s death was first announced in a Facebook post from his son, also Donahue, on September 17. That Facebook post included the above video. It was posted with the message, “A little piece of my Father! ❤❤❤.”
Actor John Cusack also tweeted about Wildman’s death:
In May 2008, Wildman was covered in a feature with Esquire Magazine. The article’s headline was, “The World’s Healthiest 75-Year-Old Man.” The piece makes reference to Wildman’s intense workout routine from his private gym in Malibu. One sentence reads, “[Wildman] looks like Sean Connery, if Connery had borrowed the body of a U.S. marine.” Among Wildman’s workout buddies was Rage Against the Machine drummer Tim Commerford, tennis legend John McEnroe and Chris Chelios of the Detroit Red Wings. The Esquire feature says that occasional workout buddies included Sean Penn, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and NBA legend Reggie Miller. Among Wildman’s athletic achievements listed in the article are competing in the Ironman Triathlon nine times, doing a three-thousand-mile bike race, the Aspen downhill ski race, as well as competing in the New York City and Los Angeles marathons. That’s not to mention Wildman’s success in sailing and snowboarding.
Wildman was the founder of the company that became Bally’s Total Fitness, he told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. He retired from the business world at the age of 61. In the same article, Wildman cited his younger friends as part of the reason for his excellent conditioning. Wildman says, “Old guys don’t train anymore, so all my buddies are real young. They’re more fun. They push you, and you push them, and you forget how old they are.” He added, “As a kid, you go out and play. As an adult, you want the same fun, the same excitement. So when people say to me, “When are you going to grow up” I always say the same thing, “I hope I never do.”
Another profile on Wildman cites the success of his health club’s as being partly down to his “innovative celebrity based advertising.” That piece called Wildman the “Godfather of the Malibu Mob.” The mob is a “group of self-described exercise fanatics.” That article concludes with the words, “Don is a proud, father, mentor and inspiration to many.”
Wildman joined the U.S. Army at 17 and was shipped out to Korea. He told Super Fit Dads about the terror he experienced and about his temptation to self-harm as a means to get sent home. Wildman said, “I had so many close calls- I’d felt sure I was going to be killed. And the thing was, most of the guys who thought they were going to get killed, did get killed.” During his time in the military, Wildman served as a combat medic. Wildman told Esquire that on his first day in Korea, “most of his company was killed” during an ambush.