The Santa Monica Historical Society Museum has received a donation of $100,000 from the widow of a professional wrestling star who was also an ardent fan of the city and one of its most popular residents and flamboyant personalities.

Billie Leone, widow of Baron Michele Leone, who pioneered professional wrestling in the United States and then helped usher in millions of additional fans across the country when television began airing the sport in the 1950s, presented the check to the museum in her husband’s memory to help support construction of the museum’s new home.

Currently located at 1539 Euclid St., the museum will soon be relocating to a new permanent facility in the Santa Monica Public Library complex (Seventh Street and Santa Monica Boulevard).

“Baron Leone was extremely popular in Southern California during his career as a professional wrestler, and many Hollywood starlets and actors would attend his matches,” said Billie Leone, who married The Baron (as he became known), in 1955. “He also was a master showman, sporting long hair and wearing a colorful cape into the ring for his matches. His fans adored him.”

Louise Gabriel, president and CEO of the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum, said, “We are thrilled and honored to receive this donation from Billie Leone in her husband’s memory. Billie is a life member of the museum and a longtime supporter of its work to preserve Santa Monica’s rich history and culture.”

The museum’s new 5,000-square foot facility in the Santa Monica Public Library complex will contain a variety of state-of-the-art exhibitions, an expanded research library, educational programs, children’s, seniors’ and family events, expanded outreach programs, collection preservation, and online access to historical images and documents.

The museum’s Board of Directors has also established a Donor’s Circle honoring contributors who will receive special recognition on the Wall of Legacy, a permanent fixture in the new museum.

To contribute, or for more information, (310) 395-2290 or www.santamonicahistory.org/.

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