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One of Helen's dozen missing this year


By RICK BELL -- Calgary Sun

 He won't be there when they gather later today at the big house on the hill.

He won't be there with the kids, the grandkids, the family, the friends, the dogs, the cats and whoever else shows up.

He won't be there on this special Sunday, this Mother's Day. A fall from the heights of a Kansas City arena into a wrestling ring ended all that for Owen Hart, one of the best guys you could ever meet.

Owen died just after last year's Mother's Day.

"I don't know what to say," says Helen Hart, who raised 12 kids, has 34 grandchildren and handles the death of the youngest of her own with a grace many can only imagine and few can explain.

"You don't get over it. It was Owen's birthday last Sunday and it is Mother's Day this Sunday. The anniversary coming up. You just don't get over it.

"Owen wrote me a card once. It was so touching. I still have it. Owen wrote: 'Thanks for having me. I love life.'

"Owen was the baby. We could've stopped at 10 kids or 11. But we didn't. We had Owen."

Helen's mind goes back to her Austrian doctor telling her she couldn't have more kids after Owen. Helen cried. She wanted a family of 15.

"The doctor told me: You are no shicken," says Helen, imitating the doctor's German accent. "He was right. I was no shicken."

Then Helen mentions her children. A lot. She mentions her husband Stu, the legend of wrestling and one of the best guys you could ever meet. She mentions him a lot, too. She talks a lot about family.

"When you have all the other children, it helps at times like this. And Stu is a rock."

Helen laughs, explaining why she had so many children. "We had a lot of cold winter nights," explains Helen, and you can already hear the punch line through her New York City accent.

"On Saturday night they would have a wrestling show in Edmonton. About four in the morning I could see the headlights of Stu's car as it chugged up the road. I was so glad to see him back home I jumped in bed and warmed it up and there was Stu. One thing lead to another."

Helen pauses, then laughs. "I don't think Stu ever knew what was happening."

Yes, Helen was born in the Bronx, a premature baby in a shoebox with two water bottles, in the days before incubators.

The doctors told Helen's folks two things. "They said I'd never be normal, and they might have been right. And they said I'd never be a mother. I think there they might have been wrong."

Helen, who says she's still 38 years old, met Stu through a friend when the grappler was in the Big Apple.

"I loved his blue eyes. I've always been weak for blue eyes. He was shy. He wouldn't say anything. Now I can't get him to stop talking." She laughs.

Helen's mom didn't go for the marriage but the couple got hitched on New Year's Eve, back in 1947.

Their first child, Smith, was born in New York while Bruce and Keith saw the light of day in Montana and the other kids drew their first breath here.

"You need a strong husband and both of you must have a sense of humour," advises Helen. "There was no job too big or too small for Stu. He could diaper a baby and put you in a wrestling hold at the same time. He never thought certain things were woman's work."

"Sometimes I compare the life I might have had in New York City -- the Broadway plays, the glamorous cafes."

But Helen thinks of those times all 12 kids would be at home, watching TV or playing ball. The family.

"This has been a wonderful life. I really wouldn't have traded it for the world. I know it's not original, but if you take the word Mom and turn it upside down it spells the word Wow," says Helen Hart, one very original mom.

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