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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Nation salutes legendary Stu

By RICK BELL -- Calgary Sun


They were all there, yesterday afternoon in Ottawa.

 Judges and educators, captains of industry and top civil servants, entomologists and ornithologists, conservationists and playwrights, and the host of a Sunday-night sex show on TV.

 They all graced the Governor General's digs at Rideau Hall.

 Our very own Stu Hart was there too.

 To become a member of the Order of Canada, this country's highest honour for a life of achievement.

 No amount of government glitz could change the man.

 Stu is still Stu.

 He has lived it all and seen it all in his 86 years.

 He's wrestled in every ring, played on every field and faced more than his fair share of hurts. Stu has nothing to prove and does not need the false comfort of fleeting fame.

 In recent years, Stu witnessed his son Owen die and his grandson Matthew die.

 He endures the unseemly spectacle of the public, pathetic feuding of many in his family and maintains grace under pressure.

 Getting the Order of Canada was another day for Stu.

 He couldn't see why he'd been singled out when, as he says, there were "lots of good guys."

 "It's a hell of a thing. I don't know if I deserve it. You shouldn't get carried away with this," says Stu.

 And he means it.

 He was happy for the honour but, on the flight down from Calgary, he tells a passenger Gordie Howe should get the award.

 Stu says he's just lucky.

 He'd rather talk your ear off about good times on the road, old and largely forgotten adversaries of bygone bouts, his days as an Edmonton Eskimo, the award he got in Vegas from wrestling's Cauliflower Alley club.

 And yesterday Stu sure would've liked to have showed a move or two to the Governor General and the other honourees.

 "I'd love to put a thread-through hold on some victim and show them how deadly wrestling is, if properly applied," says Stu, just before reluctantly donning a rented tuxedo and heading to Rideau Hall. "You know the move.

 "The guy's eyeballs turn red and he feels like he's going to burst."

 That's Stu.

 And, in many parts of this city and in many quarters of this world, Stu and his Stampede Wrestling is the stuff of legend. Many people know this city only because of Stu.

 Yesterday, the Governor General cited Stu as the "patriarch of Canada's first family of professional wrestling," an "icon of the golden era" of the grappling game, a "generous supporter of community life" and a man who imparted "the highest standards of athleticism and personal conduct."

 His daughter Georgia was at the ceremony.

 So was the one tag-team partner who's stayed with Stu for almost 54 years.

 Helen, his wife.

 As Stu is honoured, this lovely lady thinks of Stu's strength. Not his well-documented physical prowess, now declining with years. No, Helen thinks of his strength of character.

 "Stu is like a rock. When everyone loses their head, he's calm. He just has a lot of stamina and fortitude. He never gives up," says Helen. She also reflects on Stu's softer side.

 Stu, the "very artistic" lover of interior decorating, needlepoint, Oriental rugs and crystal chandeliers.

 Stu, who never forgot where he came from and helped every charity and every person who came to call.

 "He's a farm boy from Saskatchewan who never really had many of the advantages of life, but he'd always leave the door open for anyone. Whether you were a stray person or the Prince of Wales, Stu would take you in," says Helen.

 "A graphologist once analysed Stu's handwriting and told me the way he does the letter T means he wants to house the world and feed everybody."

 Today, Stu wakes up a member of a select group with one motto. It reads: "They desire a better country."

 One thing is certain.

 Canada is a better country and Calgary is a better city because Stu Hart lives here.

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