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Tribute to the King of Harts
By CHRIS GERRITSEN - Calgary Sun


Stu Hart's daughters Ellie Neidhart (left) and Georgia Hart-Annis carry an urn containing the remains of the Canadian wrestling legend. (Photo: Calgary Sun)


Nearly 1,000 people packed the First Alliance Church on Glenmore Tr. yesterday to celebrate the life of the legendary Stu Hart -- the king of the wrestling world. Friends, from Premier Ralph Klein, Calgary Ald. Craig Burrows and Barry Erskine representing the Mayor who is in Japan, the white-hatting Marge Gudmundson, Stan Schwartz, Tony Spoletini, John Helton, Lanny McDonald and Bearcat Murray to Harris Dvorkin, Frank Sisson, justice Marsha Erb and compadres from Stampede Wrestling, such as Abdul Weasal and Mr. Hito.

They all came to honour the man who was larger than life.

It was amazing to see so many people from all walks of life who had felt Stu's impact, though not all from grappling in the famed "dungeon" in the basement of the Hart home.

- - -

HOW GREAT THOU ART

During the memorial service, Archie Adams, an old friend of Stu's, provided a solo of the hymn How Great Thou Art.

He belted out the hymn leaving not a dry eye in the church.

Where does Adams fit into the picture?

"I told the family I wanted to sing," he said. "They didn't know I sang, only that I used to do the ropes for Stu."

Adams used to make for Hart the ropes which rung the Stampede Wrestling ring. He had Hart on the ropes for 20 years.

"I was working for Wire Rope Industries when I was introduced to Stu," said Adams. "He liked the rope I made. Ever since, he had referred me to all his friends in the industry. 'Go to Archie to make the rope,' he'd say."

Did Adams ever step into the ring?

"Nah. I never wrestle. I only sing."

- - -

BEYOND HIS GRASP

Former professional wrestler Bruce Hart delivers a touching tribute at his father Stu Hartís funeral. (Photo: Calgary Sun)
Not everyone within Hart's grasp was turned into a pretzel down in the famed Dungeon.

Son-in-law B.J. Annis said Hart had few regrets in life and one of those was being unable to get Annis in his clutches.

Annis, married to Hart's daughter Georgia, said he was the only son-in-law Stu never stretched.

"I spent most of my life staying away from his reach."

One way Annis kept out of reach was by telling Hart he didn't think they were ready yet.

"I'm an athlete, and I told him once if he wanted to get me in the ring he needs to practice his art. I said to him, when I think you're ready, you call me and we'll see what you got."

Annis told Hart the wrestling icon would have to be well into his 70s before being ready to take him on.

Annis hoped Hart would leave him alone. Hart did. He just waited.

At Stu Hart's 75th birthday party, Annis felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around.

"He looked at me and said, 'I think I'm ready," said Annis. "He never forgot."

Brent Chisholm isn't family, but was treated like such by Stu and Helen. He lived with the Harts for five years. Why? Just because they wanted him to.

Chisholm used to drive his own limousine for hire. He met Stu and his wife Helen while on the job. They kept in touch.

Chisholm says he sold his limo to start driving truck and get a new direction in life.

He moved out of his place and had nowhere to go, so the Harts took him in.

Chisholm says he never got tired of hearing all the stories Stu would tell about the wrestling days. He'd give anything to hear Stu tell those stories again.

- - -

HART'S CASTLE

The Hart home, now surrounded by crops of condos, is about as famous as the Hart family.

The house was built in 1905 by William Hextall for the Edward Henry Crandell family. It was home to the Crandells until 1920, and then leased to the Red Cross for war orphans and as a rest house for returning servicemen and their families.

Stu Hart bought the property in 1951.

"This is the one structure that really held the family together," said son Ross Hart. "We were raised here. We did so many important things here."

Ross says the house is heart and soul of the family and of the wrestling industry. "He was truly the king of his castle."

- - -

CADILLAC MAN

Diana Hart is accompanied to her fatherís funeral service with her and late wrestler Davey Boy Smithís son Harry following close behind. (Photo: Calgary Sun)
Stories abound about the rainbow collection of Cadillacs in the Hart family yard. However, his headache of Cadillacs weren't just on Stu's property. One Cadillac actually held up construction of one of Calgary's most legendary watering holes.

Before Dusty and Agnes Woznow opened Dusty's Saloon, the place was a warehouse.

Back around 1984, Stu was "storing" one of his Cadillacs in the warehouse and Dusty had to move it for renovations for his new bar.

There was a problem -- the car had no wheels.

"I phoned Stu and told him I really needed that Caddy out of there," said Dusty. "He said the boys had gone down to Lethbridge to wrestle and they needed the wheels for their car.

They took the wheels but left the car!"

Dusty said Stu assured him when the boys came back the next day they'd put the wheels back on and move the car so he could begin the transformation.

The rest is history.

- - -

DO IT YOUR WAY

Page Six chatted with son Bruce Hart who delivered a fantastic tribute to his father.

I asked Bruce what was the single most important lesson Stu had taught him he still holds in in his heart of hearts.

"With Stu, he could always overcome anything put in front of him," said Bruce.

"He had so much strength and determination and he instilled that in us. He was never too daunted."

Bruce said his dad always believed there was something better coming around the corner. The lesson: Overcome your obstacles and do it on your terms.

  • More on Stu Hart
  • Buy Stu Hart's biography in the SLAM! Wrestling store
  • Stu Hart Photo Gallery
  • You are invited to sign Stu Hart's Book of Condolence at www.ObituariesToday.com