REAL NAME: Bill Terry
BORN: April 1942
DIED: March 13, 1999 in Hamilton, Ontario at 56
6’2″, 270 pounds
AKA: Kurt Von Hess, Big Bill Terry
Kurt Von Hess will strike fear into men no longer.
The long-time Canadian grappler died from a heart attack on March 13.
Instead, the tributes pour in for the alter-ego of Von Hess, better known as Bill Terry.
He retired from the ring game, where he was a hated German most of his career, in 1986 after being diagnosed with a kidney disease. Terry took the fight in a different direction. He was on a dialysis machine for more than six years, and eventually, a donor was found — 31-year-old man who had been killed in a car accident — and he was given a new kidney in 1996.
Tony ‘Cannonball’ Parisi wrestled Von Hess on many occasions. He remembered him as “very aggressive” in the ring. “You had your hands full when you had him,” said Parisi, who also was a promoter who booked Von Hess for a time.
“He took the business seriously,” Billy Red Lyons told the Hamilton Spectator. “He was always in great shape. This was such a shock.”
The name Kurt Von Hess was known around the world. He did numerous trips to both Japan and South Africa. He was a mainstay in the Crockett’s Carolina promotion in the 1970s. With Karl von Shotz, he won the world tag titles, based out of Detroit. He was also a tag champ in Japan with Big John Quinn.
Von Hess was also a Stampede Wrestling North American champion in 1971.
Wes Hutchins, better known to fans as Hartford Love (with partner Reginald Love, Johnny Evans), trained with Bill Terry in a Hamilton gym in the early 1960s. Benny Lima was the trainer.
“He was a good friend of mine,” said Hutchins. “A good wrestler … a good fella.”
As Hutchins started to seriously get into wrestling, he decided to get out of his other business venture, which was acting as a distributor in the Hamilton area for Orange Crush. And he sold his business to Bill Terry. Hutchins called the distributorship a good way “to put groceries on the table.”
Ricky Johnson, Toronto-area promoter and uncle to the WWF world champ Rocky Miavia, recalled Bill Terry breaking him in during the late 70s.
“I remember him leading me through a lot of matches when I started,” said Johnson. “He helped me a lot. I was a nervous kid. He just calmed me down.”
Wayne Cashman refereed many of Von Hess’s matches in southern Ontario, when Von Hess would work for Bearman Dave McKigney while based out of his Hamilton home.
It seemed like he’d “been around for a hundred thousand years,” said Cashman, adding that Bill Terry was “a helluva gentleman” and very “soft-spoken”.
On the McKigney circuit, Von Hess feuded with Luis Martinez. At the end of his career, he worked for The Tunneys in Toronto.
Terry is survived by his wife Catherine, daughters Paige and Alison, three grandchildren and a sister.
Visitation is at Swackhamer Blachford and Wray Funeral Home, 1341 Main St. W. in Hamilton, from 6 p.m. to 9 pm Tuesday, March 16.
The funeral will be held in the chapel Wednesday at 11 a.m. Long-time Hamilton wrestler Danny Johnson will be delivering the eulogy.
I can remember Von Hess very well. Bald, goatee black pants, jack boots. One Sept. a friend of mine and me went on a whim to the Gardens, 10 minutes before bell time and we got low golds over/near the ramp. Best seats I have ever had.
Von Hess was the heel in the first match, I cannot remember the opponent, probably Don Kernoodle or Mike Rotunda, anyways the crowd hates him.
Two matches later, someone is a no show and Von Hess is in the ring telling Lord Alfred Hayes to come on!! Then he was the good guy, imagine that! That’s wrestling
I do not have very many memories of Kurt Von Hess. The one memory that stands out in my mind is a cold snowy afternoon at Maple Leaf Gardens and the main event booked was “Bulldog” Buzz Sawyer in a dog collar match against Roddy Piper. Buzz Sawyer was a no show, so Piper came into the ring and announced that Kurt Von Hess made a challenge to him in the back to have a dog collar match. To quote Piper “I got some bald headed geek in the back who thinks he can beat me”. Needless to say the main event was virtually a squash match.
Kurt Von Hess was my Uncle Bill. He was like a father to me. I lived with him and my Aunt Catherine for many years after my Mother and I came to Canada from Scotland. I remember that Uncle Bill loved his cartoons. Paige, Alison and I used to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings ( when he wasnt on the road) I allways tried to get to his knee first because I was the oldest one of us three. Many times I met a lot of wrestlers at home and it was common that one of them would show up for dinner. I remember going for a car ride with the Love Brothers, and I was sandwiched in between these two giant men I felt like an elf in the back seat, their wrists were like trees. When I went back to school I used to brag about my Uncle Bill being a wrestler. The man in the ring was Kurt Von Hess, the man out of the ring was someone I remember as a champion because he was the best person anyone could know. He was funny, loved his wife and children, and he loved the sport of wrestling. He was dedicated to his daily workouts and allways told me to eat right, take my vitamins, and to excersise, so that I would have a sound mind and a strong body. I love you Uncle Bill and I miss your beautiful smile and your voice.
I have a lot of good memories of Kurt Von Hess. He was my dad. We all miss him so much. Life is so different with out my dad. I grew up with the wrestling business, travelling all of my child hood from town to town, but my dad loved his job and provided the best of everything for me and my sister Paige. He was also a wonderful grandfather or pop as they used to call him. My daughter Shyla (Skye) and my son Keith (Dakota) miss him terribly, as do all of us. If I were to need my dad he would be right there for me, but sadly he cannot anymore. I can picture him now with his best friend Eric The Red, and know they are a team once again. Many thanks to Greg Oliver for this site. I showed it to my dad before he passed on, and he loved it! A big thank you to all who cared for my dad and sent tributes in his memory. And at last thank you to Smith Hart for all the kind words he had to say about my father, at the Legends show this year, in Buffalo. Dad, I love ya, and miss you terribly, there will be a day when we will meet some how some where but until then dad WRESTLE IN PEACE
I would like to thank you for the wonderful article you printed about my Uncle Bill. Its so hard to believe that such a special being has been taken from us unexpectedly. He lived with me a couple of times over the last 5 years so I did get to have a lot of good times with him. No one knows this but he was jumped by a guy and girl coming back from dialysis one day, they were fighting and he told the guy to leave the girl alone (they were drunk). Instead they smashed him over the head with the bottle they had and kicked and punched him. He was a real mess. I cried when I seen his face all cut up and bruised. All he was doing was trying to help. Uncle Bill always stood up when someone needed help, but because of his condition , he was overtaken by 2 punks. I’ll never forget that day.
His favorite thing was exercise and he did it every other day between dialysis treatments. He usually walked to the gym, sometimes it was 5 miles. Then after working out he would walk home. He had incredible stamina. He was also a vitamin nut and health food lover. I really miss watching wrestling with him, it was a Saturday ritual at our house and still is. I’ve watched wrestling for about thirty years now, and because of my Uncle Bill I will continue until I die. I guess it’s in my blood.
Johanne Russell, Harley Ontario
This is weird. My family & I were just talking about Kurt Von Hess and wondering what he was doing now. I am sad to see that he has passed away. He was great. I remember him a looonnnng time ago when he use to come to Akron Ohio and fight in the Amory which no longer stands. My sincere thoughts go out to the family. I’ll remember him always as a great wrestler. Peace be with you Kurt Von Hess.
My name is Steve. I met you at the legend night, at DiPaolo’s. We spoke briefly outside of the restaurant the night before the wrestling show. I last saw your dad the summer before, when he came to Buffalo. He told me and my dear friend of 35 years (Ron Martinez) that he moved back to Canada from Florida because of the treatments. I was stunned to hear the news about your dad’s untimely passing. I asked Dennis DiPaolo, who are the young ladys sitting at the table with Eric Hansen’s son. Dennis replied, “That’s Bill Terry’s daughters here to accept an award on behalf of their dad.” Alison, I will always remember your dad as soft-spoken, articulate, and very distinguished. If you don’t remember me feel free to email me and I will explain further. Till then……….God bless you and your family.
This past Monday March 13, 2000 marked the first year anniversary of my father and best friend Kurt Von Hess’ (aka Bill Terry) untimely death. My name is Paige Terry and I am the eldest of the Terry girls. I don’t know if anyone in this world can understand the loss of losing a parent like my father. We had a connection that only we understood. I could look at him sometimes and know exactly what he was thinking without even saying a word, almost like a twin connection. To lose him crushed me beyond imagination. How can I fill the void of what I consider to have been the most caring, loving and understanding person I have ever known? He will always be with me in spirit, guiding me through good times and bad. On this sad occasion I take a look back and reflect on what a wonderful soul this world lost.
I didn’t really know Kurt Von Hess. But he was my dad. I can’t remember what he looks like. But my family tells me that he was a very kind and sweet person. I wish that I could have went to Canada and visited him before he passed away. My name is Ashley Terry I have one other sister her name is Kallie. And two other half sisters there names are Paige and Alison. I am sure all of you have met or heard of Alison and Paige but no one has talked about myself and Kallie. I have never seen them but I would very much love to. My sister and I are part of his secret life. We talked over the phone for years. The last phone call was to tell me I would never see my Dad again. I cried a lot that evening. But I hope that he is with me in spirit. In memory of my father Kurt Von Hess.
My vivid memories of Mr. Von Hess, as the terrible German who hated Americans..but of course I was only about 10 at the time, not understanding the “business” at the time..I always was surprised how nice he was to talk to when he was interviewed for a main event match, and how much of a gentleman he was to the announcers..I always said, “there is something different about this bad guy”..the difference was he was a kind and gentle man who adored his family and totally enjoyed the business of wrestling…rest in peace Mr.Terry…
Pop /Kurt von Hess was my grandfather. He was a great grandfather he would always take me for long bike rides up to the rail trail/shining time station and I always remember pop coming home from the gym always talking to me about weight training and he would always want to teach me how to do weight training and he will always be remembered down in my heart.