- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

OSCEOLA, Ark. (AP) - Once a week, a local, 65-year-old businessman “lets the starch out of his suit and gets real redneck,” looking for his release in the ring.

Lafonce “Big Daddy” Latham for 23 years takes off his suit and tie every week, taking a break from undertaking the deceased, to put on a family oriented wrestling show with his family and friends.

Latham never considered the combination of his day job as owner of The Wilson Funeral Home and his participation in the Mid-Southern Championship Wrestling League as unique. He was just doing what felt right, the Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1ykpUyb ) reported.

He talks about caring for the deceased as nonchalantly as he talks about the weather.

“Our everyday run is collect insurance premiums, payments,” Latham said. “When a death call arises, we pick ‘em up, embalm ‘em, make arrangements with the family, set up the cemetery and have a funeral service for ‘em.”

Lafonce said he finds solace in the funeral home, being able to help and provide for people during a dark time in their lives.

Owning the funeral home and running the wrestling league was just part of his nature as a prolific businessman. Latham owns two auction houses, runs a ranch, has his funeral homes and some stores.

“It’s just the old American way,” Latham said. “I started from scratch - it’s worked out well for me and my family.”

But someone did take notice of the unusual combination - a young boy who would run around filming the wrestling matches in the early 1990s.

Bill Duncan was that little boy. Duncan eventually moved to Tennessee to work in film production, but he returned later in life to attend his uncle’s funeral in Osceola.

That funeral was arranged by the Lathams’ funeral home.

“Billy Duncan was here years ago, always trying to do movies,” Jerry “White Lightening” Smith, Latham’s son-in-law, said. “He came back for a funeral. He knew us all through wrestling, but he didn’t know we were undertakers.”

Duncan, along with his brother David Duncan, had a moment of realization. He filmed some sample clips and pitched them to producers in California. Eventually, the idea was picked up by Leftfield Pictures from New York.

Now Lafonce and his family are cast in the spotlight for a 12-episode reality show “Wrestling with Death,” airing on WGN in January. The show follows the Lathams’ unique set of skills and businesses.

When the idea was pitched to Latham’s wife, Sandra Latham, she laughed.

“I thought they were nuts, absolutely crazy,” she said.

Lafonce took on the task of promoting a wrestling show in the early 1990s in Osceola for Moondog Spot. Moondog Spot, or Larry Booker, a former WWE champion, had retired from the spotlight and was looking to settle in the South.

Latham was quickly pulled into the ring 23 years ago after he started promoting the show. He said the rest is history.

“Next thing I know I was in the ring, my son was in the ring, my wife was,” Latham said. “Soon after, It seemed like everyone I knew was wrestling.”

___

Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com


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