Legendary Bodybuilder Dave Draper Dies at 79, Arnold Schwarzenegger Calls Him an 'Inspiration'

"Dave Draper was an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, including me," Arnold Schwarzenegger said

Dave Draper
Photo: Peter John Moxham/Fairfax Media via Getty

Bodybuilder Dave Draper died has died at age 79, his family confirmed in a post to social media.

Draper — whose achievements include winning the Mr. America title in 1965 and Mr. Universe in 1966 — died Tuesday morning, his wife, Laree Draper, wrote in a post on Facebook. A cause of death has not been revealed at this time.

"Hi, friends, as the word's getting out, I wanted to let you know so there's no confusion. Dave died early this morning," she said. "I was with him and it was calm and peaceful. It, as his doctor told me a little while ago, was a good death."

According to his website, Draper said he got into bodybuilding after he began using a makeshift set of weights when he was a child. The act of lifting weights became more than simple exercise, he said.

"They were my solid steel friends that I could trust," Draper wrote. "When the going got tough, when I kept missing the baseball, and when girls were far too cute to talk to, the weights were there and they spoke my language."

Draper's chiseled physique helped him make a name for himself in the bodybuilding scene, which helped him in a part in the 1967 comedy, Don't Make Waves, also starring Sharon Tate.

Dave Draper
Silver Screen Collection/Getty

After Draper's death was announced, former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger called him his "idol."

"Dave Draper was an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, including me. He was one of my idols," Schwarzenegger, 74, wrote on Instagram. "In Austria, I kept his cover of Muscle Builder magazine on the wall above my bed for motivation, and when I saw him starring in 'Don't Make Waves', I thought, 'My dreams are possible.'"

"When I got to America and finally met Dave, I learned his heart was as big as his pecs. He even hand-built my first furniture when I moved to Santa Monica, and let me tell you, he was talented," Schwarzenegger continued. " Can you imagine meeting your idol and becoming his training partner and traveling all over the world together? I was in heaven."

Schwarzenegger included a photo of him and Draper at a competition alongside fellow bodybuilder Mike Katz.

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"He couldn't have been more welcoming, and he was a fantastic training partner who always pushed everyone around him in the gym to be better," Schwarzenegger said of Draper. "He was an amazing writer and a great family man. I will miss the Blond Bomber, but his memory will always be with me. My thoughts are with Laree and the whole family."

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