Max Mickey Gold, gentle giant with a big heart, 84

Max Mickey Gold of Piedmont was a big-hearted chiropractor who treated countless aches and pains during his 37-year career.

But in his athletic prime, he dished out plenty of hurt to foes in the wrestling ring.

A Jewish kid from Chicago who went on to win the 1949 European heavyweight wrestling championship in Switzerland, Gold dispensed with many opponents using his dreaded "Flying Trapeze" move.

Hooking his opponents' feet and ankles, Gold, a 225-pound 6-footer whose massive chest once filled a size 52 jacket, would send his hapless victims flying.

"He was what I always thought of as a gentle giant," said his younger sister, Donna Gold, of Phoenix.

Gold, a longtime member of Oakland's Reform Temple Sinai, died July 25. He was 84.

Known as "Mickey" by his friends, the retired Oakland chiropractor and former juvenile hall counselor was one of seven children born to immigrant parents. His Romanian-born father was a furrier.

A high school football standout who played center and fullback, Gold won a four-year scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis in 1938. He suffered a broken leg when he was illegally clipped in a scrimmage, however, and lost his scholarship to the private school. He transferred to junior college in Phoenix, where he recovered and continued to play football.

In 1942, Gold enlisted in the Navy and during World War II was stationed in Dutch New Guinea as a ship's cook first class. On one mission, his ship took a major roll that sent 50-gallon drums tumbling, killing some crew members.

"My father crawled out, but he'd broken his back," said his son, Kenneth, of San Jose. "He was told by the surgeons that he would never walk again."

But two orderlies trained as chiropractors nursed him to health, and Gold not only walked again but went on to become an amateur and then a professional heavyweight wrestler.

Gold's career took him on a far-flung wrestling circuit that included matches in Hawaii, England, France, Switzerland and Canada.

"My father's style was Greco-Roman, the same style as in the Olympics," his son said.

One of Gold's biggest disappointments came when he was disqualified for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1948 because he had once been paid $12 by an officer for winning a match.

"My father's attitude was, 'What's done is done,'" said Kenneth Gold. "But he would have easily medaled and probably taken a gold."

In 1946, Gold married the former Katherine Posnet of Oakland, with whom he had a "48-year love affair" until her death in 1994.

After traveling on the wrestling circuit, the young couple moved in 1950 to Posnet's hometown, where Gold entered the Oakland Chiropractic College.

His interest in the career was "a direct result of his war injury and how he was rehabilitated," his son said.

Graduating four years later, Gold opened an office on Lakeshore Avenue near Lake Merritt.

He retired from the ring in 1956. "My mom wanted to raise a family," Kenneth Gold said. "They'd had enough. If you got thrown out of the ring, you were in bed for a week."

Physical fitness remained a passion for Gold, who worked out regularly at several local gyms and became close friends with fitness guru Jack La Lanne.

Working as a chiropractor, Gold often treated indigent patients for free. "On a few occasions, I think he received a chicken or two as payment," his son said.

Starting in 1957, Gold also worked in the Alameda County juvenile probation department, counseling youth whose crimes went "all the way up to murder," his son said. On one occasion, one of those juveniles made the mistake of attacking Gold. "Within a flip second, he'd picked the kid up by his neck and held him up to the ceiling. With that reputation, I think for another five years no one ever came near my father again."

The family joined Temple Sinai in 1972, and Gold became an active member and eventually president of the temple's brotherhood.

According to Rabbi Steven Chester, Gold "almost singlehandedly" kept the brotherhood going at a time when membership was faltering. "He just worked very, very hard to keep it alive," said Chester, who noted that Gold was honored by the congregation last year for his considerable efforts.

In another tribute, Gold was inducted in 1996 into the B'nai B'rith Jewish Athletic Hall of Fame in Chicago.

In addition to his son, Kenneth, survivors include his daughter, Sharon, of Piedmont; a granddaughter; and sisters Donna Gold and Bernice Roth, both of Phoenix, and Ethel Becker of Boca Raton, Fla.

Services were held Sunday at Temple Sinai. Contributions may be sent to the rabbi's, cantorial music or brotherhood funds at Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, CA 94609.