Chuck Norris gave up his entire career to care for his sick wife – he will always call her his ‘best friend’

There are few actors more iconic than Chuck Norris, at least when it comes to stunts, martial arts, and badass movies from start to finish.

Over the years, the 82-year-old Oklahoma native has appeared in around 40 movies, and he wasn’t long into his acting career when he got his breakthrough.

Chuck has had two long marriages; the second of him is still going strong today. Furthermore, he is a loving father of five children.

However, he recently shared some pretty worrying news about his wife’s health.

Let’s take a closer look at the career and life of Chuck Norris.


Chuck Norris was born on March 10, 1940 in Ryan, Oklahoma. The oldest of three brothers, describing himself as a little boy, he said he was “the shy kid who never excelled at anything in school.”


But in fact, Norris’s childhood was quite tumultuous. His father was a heavy drinker, and when Chuck was only 10 years old, he suddenly disappeared, leaving his mother, Wilma, alone. She single-handedly raised Chuck and his two brothers, but by the time Chuck Norris turned 15, the family had moved 16 times. Finally, they settled in California.

Wilma was now a devout Christian and made sure that Chuck and his brothers, Wieland and Arron, went to church wherever they lived. As a result, Norris developed a close relationship with God.

Chuck attended North Torrance High School, although by age 14 he had begun to take on more responsibilities at home. In addition to studying, he helped her mother take care of her siblings while she worked.

“God has a plan for you,” Wilma told Chuck every day.

“She loves Jesus with all her heart and soul and she made sure we understood that [growing up],” Baptist Press said. “She influenced me spiritually and instilled in me a sense of responsibility that lasted into my later adult life, she always told me ‘God has plans for you’ and I didn’t know what she meant. I think now yes.

It was in 1958 that Chuck married his high school sweetheart, Dianne Holechek. But we’ll get back to that in a bit.


Around the same time, he had begun to take an interest in the army. He ended up joining the US Air Force the same year he married Holechek.
Chuck Norris was initially stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea, and it was there that he began studying martial arts.

As fate would have it, it was thanks to his time in service that he got the now legendary name from him.

During boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, a Hispanic who lived in the barracks with Chuck asked him if he knew what Carlos meant in English.

“I said, ‘yes, it’s Charles,'” Norris explained on his website. “Then he said, ‘Charles’ nickname is Chuck.’ That’s what I’m going to call you. Well, all the guys started calling me Chuck and he stuck.”

According to the US Army website, Chuck soon “realized that he couldn’t arrest a drunken rowdy without drawing his gun.” So, he decided to study martial arts. His instructor was Grand Master Mun – Tae Kwon Do instructor – at Osan Gym.

When he left the service in 1961, Chuck began working as a karate instructor. At the time, he had a black belt in karate and a brown belt in judo.

Chuck would become something of a karate studio franchise owner. He opened more than 30 karate studios in the 1960s in the US and through them taught many celebrities including Priscilla Presley and Steve McQueen.


Additionally, he competed in numerous tournaments, winning the World Karate Middleweight Championship title for the first time in 1968. Norris would defend the title five times and was soon viewed as one of the greatest fighters in martial arts history.

He “was competing against guys with years and years of experience”
In 1974, Chuck retired from competition. At that time, his chain of karate schools had gone bankrupt.

“I thought maybe 500 schools was better than owning six schools, but it turns out it wasn’t. Anyway, two years later, I lost everything. It took me five years to get out of that hole and pay off all the creditors. Meanwhile, I was trying to decide what I was going to do with my life,” Chuck explained.

As mentioned, Chuck had tutored Steve McQueen. It turned out that the actor had actually told Norris to try acting. The problem was that Chuck had no money and acting classes were expensive.

“I finally found an acting school that I was able to take on my GI bill through the military,” Norris said. “So I went back to school to learn acting.

Then I went out looking for work (as an actor) but I was competing against guys with years and years of experience.”

“I said ‘this is not going to work’. So I ended up writing my own script and eventually, through sheer determination and faith, sold the idea and made it a reality. That was in 1977. That was really the beginning of my career.”

Before that, however, Chuck would take on what is considered a cult role today. In 1972, he appeared in Return of the Dragon, and the film’s highlight was a fight scene between him and action star Bruce Lee, performed at the famous Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

The story behind the legendary scene is quite something.


“It was unbelievable because when I got to Rome my fighting weight was 168 (lbs.) and at the time Bruce was around 145,” Chuck said.


“The producers of the movie looked at us together and said ‘you know you two don’t look too different in size, you need to be bigger than Bruce, can we make you bigger?’ I said ‘what do you mean?’ He said ‘can you get a little fat?’ I said ‘well I don’t know.’ He said ‘well, can you gain 20 pounds?’ I said ‘okay, I’ll try’.”

Norris continued: “So I started eating hamburgers and drinking malt. But he was training every day, so he was burning off the weight again. I literally had to stop training and just eat. And then of course you know it wasn’t muscle, it was more fat than muscle (laughs). So I went up to about 180 for that fight scene. That’s why you didn’t see me do any jump kicks that I couldn’t get off the ground.

Chuck may not have won Academy Awards during his time in the spotlight, but his acting career has been pretty important. In all, he has been in around 40 films, including the 1984 film Missing in Action, Code of Silence (1985), and The Delta Force (1986).

As the 1990s approached, Chuck’s acting career began to fade. He was no longer getting prominent roles, so he decided to create some new projects on the sidelines. The result? Well he today he has a net worth of around $70 million.

Norris has always been a huge supporter of various charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In 1990, with the help of President George H.W. Bush, he founded his own charity, Kickstart.


The organization provides martial arts training to high school students in the US The purpose of the training is not to teach children how to fight. Instead, it’s designed to boost their self-esteem, so they don’t feel like they have to fight in the first place.

Chuck Norris: family, wife, children
“Kickstart, I think, is one of God’s plans for me and for Gina as well,” Norris said. “We work with children who are already on the wrong path, who already have two blows against them, children from the center of the city who do not have their own initiative. And our Kickstart program, which means building strong moral character in our youth through martial arts, is a way of giving back.”

As mentioned above, Chuck married his high school sweetheart, Dianne Holechek, in 1958. The two stayed together until 1988 and share sons, Mike and Eric.

Then in 1997, Chuck went on a date at a Dallas restaurant. However, it was another woman who caught his attention. That woman was Gena O’Kelley, and the two began dating shortly after. Chuck and Gina were married in 1998 and remain deeply in love to this day. For his 20th anniversary, Chuck took to Facebook to post a touching tribute to his wife, whom he calls his best friend.

“22 years ago I met the love of my life. And now we are celebrating 20 years of marriage together,” Norris wrote.

“Gena… Thank you for being not only the best wife a man could wish for, but also the best mother and best friend. I love you Gena and I hope to celebrate many more years together.”

Gena and Chuck Norris have welcomed two children together, Danielle and Dakota. However, about a decade ago, their lives were turned upside down.

He gave up his film career to take care of his sick wife.
Since then, Gena’s health has been deteriorating. In 2013, she reportedly received an injection. According to Gena herself, something felt wrong almost instantly.

“A few hours after the first injection, I felt like my whole body was on fire, as if acid had been injected into me. The burning was isolated at first, but continued to spread… I lay in bed with an IV for five months and had to receive 24-hour nursing care. Chuck slept next to me on the couch and never left. I prayed to live to raise my children,” she explained.

Since then, Gena has suffered from nerve pain and kidney problems. She believes that she was poisoned by a chemical that was injected into her multiple times during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Gena and Chuck have publicly sued 11 health care companies in an attempt to bring justice.

Chuck Norris, family
Since then, Gena has needed care and her husband has always been there. In fact, he gave up everything else to take care of his wife full time. According to the couple, they have spent around $2 million on treatments alone.

“I gave up my film career to focus on Gena, my whole life right now is about keeping her alive,” Chuck said. “I think this issue is very important.”

“It’s infuriating and heartbreaking,” Gena added. “It’s a vicious and ugly secret that has been kept hidden, something Chuck and I are determined to change.”

We wish Chuck Norris and Gena all the best in the future. Hopefully she will make a full recovery soon.

Chuck Norris sure sounds like a fantastic husband and father. So please share this article on Facebook with friends and family to honor him.