October 17, 2003
King of Harts dead
By BILL KAUFMANN and JIM WELLS - Calgary Sun

Stu Hart grapples with legendary boxer Muhammed Ali. -- Sun file photo

A chapter in the saga of Calgary\'s wrestling royalty came to an end yesterday with the death of Stu Hart.

Hart, 88, died peacefully in a Rockyview Hospital room adorned with a single bouquet of flowers at around 2:30 p.m. following a bout with pneumonia, a stroke and failed kidneys.

\"It\'s the end of an era,\" said daughter Elizabeth Neidhart, 48, clad in one of her dad\'s old sweaters.

Said son Bret \"Hitman\" Hart of WWF fame: \"You kind of look at the good side of it -- he had a glorious life that wasn\'t cut short.\"

The siblings and other members of the large Hart family had been conducting a rotating vigil over their beloved father, who\'s been a wrestling icon for decades.

Hart had been hospitalized recently for complications stemming from pneumonia but the family was confident he\'d wrestle those latest health setbacks to the ground.


But on Sunday, Neidhart said doctors believe her father suffered a stroke and was no longer able to swallow.

Since then, the family patriarch\'s kidneys had shut down, she added.

\"Everyone thought it was going to be okay but he took a turn for the worse,\" she said.

Neidhart said her father\'s death will mean the end of an era for both his doting family, the wrestling community and the city he loved.

\"My mom and dad were everything -- when they died, a lot of our family goes with them,\" she said, noting her mother, Helen, died almost two years ago. \"I think my mom was saying \'it\'s time for him to come back to her.\' \"

Yesterday, two figures prominent in the Stampede Wrestling days, the men behind the Cuban Assassin and Tokyo Joe, paid their respects at Hart\'s room.

The elder Hart\'s death would be the latest bout of grief suffered by Calgary\'s best-known family.

Among the more high-profile deaths was that of son Owen, who died on May 23, 1999 in Kansas City when a WWF stunt went wrong.

And on May 19, 2002, Hart\'s son-in-law, Davey Boy Smith, known in wrestling circles as the British Bulldog, died suddenly.

There were also internal family disputes that Bret said tarnished the Hart name for some people.

\"We\'d been through some tough times in the last few years but if you take away those few things, we\'ve all had great lives,\" said Bret, one of 12 children in the family.

\"My dad was recognized for his integrity ... I\'ve always tried to emulate my dad.\"

Daughter Allison said her father is now with Owen and Davey Boy.

\"Owen\'s going to take care of him and Davey Boy will torment him,\" she said.

A pioneer in the professional wrestling world, Hart\'s origins were actually in the amateur scene and he was a standout centre for the Edmonton Eskimos in the late 1930s.

He entered the ringside promotion business in 1948 -- a pursuit that led to the creation of Stampede wrestling, while his sons, notably Bret and Owen, became world-famous grapplers.

Neidhart said a small, private funeral isn\'t likely, adding she expects an overflow crowd to pay their respects.

\"Watching over it, he\'d want the people of Calgary there for a celebration of how much he loved Calgary,\" she said.