Stu deserves huge honour
By BRET HART -- Calgary Sun
It was Valentine's Day and my mom and dad were hurrying to leave for an appointment when the ever-ringing phone at my dad's house let out its familiar bleeep. Stu was having a hard time hearing the caller -- cauliflower ears will do that.
"Who is it?" my mom queried, as she gathered up her purse to leave the house.
It was a far bigger question than one might surmise. Answering the phone at the Hart house is a sort of pot-luck gamble because you never know who's going to be on the other end. It could be friends and relatives or it could be wrestling's stars, upstarts and old timers. Or perhaps the good people representative of so many worthwhile causes. Or flim-flam men pitching their latest schemes, politicians, doctors, lawyers, musicians, artists -- invitations, salutations, explanations and degradations.
"I think it's a wrestling fan ..." Stu hypothesized.
Helen simultaneously put down her things while reaching for the receiver Stu was handing her in a perfectly choreographed motion that comes only from 50 years of true partnership.
No matter how rushed my mother may be, she is always sincerely gracious to wrestling fans.
"Hello?" she explored. "To whom am I speaking?"
Another thing about my mom is that even after spending her entire adult life surrounded by wrestlers she still speaks like a lady, prides herself on perfect grammar and has a "variegated, patrician" (see mom!) vocabulary.
"Mrs. Hart," the voice who had heard itself described as a wrestling fan began, "this is the office of the Governor General. We are calling to let you know that we will be announcing that Mr. Hart has been appointed to the Order of Canada!"
There was an astonished pause as my mother took a deep breath upon hearing the news that her husband, at that very moment taking out the trash, had been bestowed the award that is the centrepiece of the Canadian honours system.
Stu, of course, thought surely this must be a prank.
There followed, during the next few days, a number of congratulatory calls and correspondences from people in high places and Stu walked around, shaking his head, saying over and over, "but what did I do to deserve this?"
I suspect his humility has something to do with it.
That and the whole rags-to-riches-to-rags saga of the original Stampede Wrestling. It wasn't just the raucous rebel rousin of rasslin the way it used to be that lured tough real-life cowboys and indians. It was, at the foundation of all that flash and vaudeville, that there was heart. And a lot of it.
Quiet contributions made without fanfare to countless community causes. And one-on-one -- jobs given to misguided youths, and the mentally and physically challenged -- countless people whose lives were changed because my father practised that anyone who works hard is deserving of equal regard.
To answer my father's question, "and what have I done to deserve this?" I offer that Stampede Wrestling was always greater than the sum of its parts. In the fabled dungeon, my father pushed men to their limits. I suspect now that it was all physical allegory for the boundless potential that my father sees in each one of us to make a positive difference in the world, if we try hard, do the best we can -- and always strive to reinvent our limits.
The award, to be presented to Stu by the Governor General, Chancellor of the Order, reads as follows:
"Stewart Edward Hart, C.M.
Member of the Order of Canada.
"As patriarch of Canada's first family of professional wrestling, he has made an important contribution to the sport for more than five decades. Founder of Stampede Wrestling and an icon of the golden era of wrestling, he has been coach and mentor to countless young athletes, imparting the highest standards of athleticism and personal conduct. A generous supporter of community life in Calgary, he is a loyal benefactor to more than 30 charitable and civic organizations including the Shriners' Hospital for Crippled Children and the Alberta Firefighters Fund."