The last of the famed Baillargeon brothers, Charles, died Wednesday in a Quebec City hospital at the age of 92. The six strongmen brothers captivated North America in the 1940s with their feats of strength before turning to other means of celebrity — like professional wrestling.
The six Baillargeon brothers — Jean, Charles, Adrien, Lionel, Paul, and Antonio (Tony) — were the Ice Capades or Harlem Globetrotters of their day, taking their strongmen act from town to town. Dressed in a weightlifting singlet showing off their impressive physiques with a maple leaf and a beaver on the front, the Baillargeons wowed crowds. Charles would pull a bus with his teeth, Paul would lift a horse. They would make human pyramids with Jean or Paul at the base, supporting three or four people above. They brought in acrobats to complement their act.
By 1949, all six brothers had grown tired of the road and having to arrange their own shows across North America. When the opportunity arose for them to train at wrestling in Massachusetts came, they took it. Their fame was their calling card in the ring. “Their feats of strength have been recorded by the newsreel cameras and no doubt you have seen them in your local theaters,” wrote The Ring magazine in April 1950.
Their wrestling careers didn’t actually last that long, averaging 12 years. Tony, the youngest, wrestled the longest, from 1949 until 1976. Jean wrestled 15 years, Adrien eight years, Lionel nine years, and Paul 11 years. Charles wrestled only six years, a car accident cutting his career short in 1955.
“They were strongmen,” recalled colleague Tony Lanza in 2002. “They were just plain strongmen, nothing much about wrestling. Only Paul was a better wrestler. … They were not really wrestlers. They were more or less strongmen and they got involved in wrestling, the whole family.”
Charles Baillargeon was born in Saint-Magloire-de-Bellechasse, Quebec on July 8, 1917, and was on the shorter end of the family at 5-foot-11, and 190 pounds. Wrestling as a lightweight, he debuted in 1949 in Loretteville, beating Charlie Guilman.
Following his exit from wrestling, Charles worked with his brother Paul in the hotel business.
He had been in a home for the aged, and entered St-François d’Assise hospital on Tuesday. He died on Wednesday, February 10, 2010, following a stroke.
He is survived by his wife Denise, his son Jacques (Jocelyne Arsenault) and his grandchildren, Karl (Cynthia Schobesberger), Doris, Sophie, as well as his sisters Thérèse, Monique et Géraldine, plus numerous nephews, nieces, cousins and friends.
Family will receive mourners at the Complexe Funeraire du Parc Commémoratif La Souvenance, 301 Ste-Anne (at the corner of rte de l’Aéroport) in the Quartier Laurentien, Québec City, on Saturday, February 13, from 10-11 a.m., and a service will follow at 11 a.m.
The Baillargeron brothers were my first cousins. While Lionel and Antonio were wrestling they would contact my father. We lived just outside of Vancouver in Maillardville BC.
My father always said that their size and strength came from his sister,, their mother, who could carry hundred pound bags on her shoulder.
Can only remember meeting him on one occasion when he came for dinner.
I never met them but my father said their sisters were quite impressive too.