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Matriarch passes on

Hart clan mourns loss of Helen

By MICHAEL WOOD -- Calgary Sun

 Tributes are pouring in for Helen Hart, the proud matriarch of Calgary's legendary clan of Hart wrestlers, who died early yesterday at Foothills Hospital. She was 76.

 Helen's longtime love and husband Stu, 86, was joined by family members at her bedside to bid the clan's binding force farewell after nearly five weeks of poor health due to diabetes complications. Helen's respirator was turned off just after 3 a.m.

 "Her health had deteriorated rapidly," Helen's daughter Alison said from the family mansion."We thought it was time to let her be."

 Premier Ralph Klein told the Sun he and his wife, Colleen, "were deeply saddened," by the loss of a "remarkable woman."

 "Calgary, Alberta and Canada have lost one of the greatest matriarchs of all time. On behalf of all Albertans, Colleen and I extend our heartfelt sympathy to the Hart family."

 From New Jersey, WCW champ Chris Jericho offered his own sympathies to the family, especially Stu.

 "The only good thing out of this is she'll get to see her (predeceased) sons Owen and Dean again," Jericho told the Sun.

 Chris Benoit, who trained in the infamous Hart dungeon before heading into wrestling stardom, recalled the day he showed up on their front door as a young kid.

 "She made me feel a part of the house immediately, she made me feel like I knew her forever," he said from Atlanta.

 Helen, the savvy businesswoman behind Calgary's Stampede Wrestling and the uniting force in the family, was the first of five girls born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Olympic runner Harry Smith and doting mom Ellie Poulis in 1924.

 It was one sunny day on the sands of Long Beach in Long Island she met a rough-and-tumble wrestler by the name of Stewart Hart. Two years and three marriage proposals later they wed -- and in the hardy spirit of the family to come -- at the peak of a horrendous snowstorm Dec. 31, 1947.

 "She used to say, I married in a blizzard and I've been snowed in ever since," Alison said with a smile.

 Longtime family friend, journalist and former Stampede Wrestling ringside announcer Ed Whalen called her a "beautiful and lovely woman" who managed to hold her head up during somewhat rocky and controversial family times.

 "There could be such storms blowing with all these wrestlers coming into the house, and here she'd be as calm as could be in the middle of it," he said.

 Her son Bret said: "She was such a strong person, a real fighter."

 Although she could always manage a smile, the death of her youngest boy, Owen, in a wrestling stunt, would prove the toughest challenge to overcome.

 "She never got over it," Alison said.

 Sitting in the massive family dining room at his home, Stu reminisced about his longtime tag-team partner in business, life and love.

 "She was the glue that held us together," he said. "I don't have my tiger to push me along anymore."

 People can send messages to the Helen Hart guestbook online at helenhart@shaw.ca. Fans can also check out a Web site dedicated to Helen at http://members.home.net/helen.hart.

 Funeral details are being finalized.

Related stories

  • Helen Hart photo gallery
  • Nov. 6: Helen Hart: A friend's recollection
  • Nov. 5: Helen Hart passes away

    More on The Hart Family




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