Early Sunday morning, November 4, 2001, Helen Hart died in Foothills Hospital in Calgary from complications following a stroke. She was 76.

At a Calgary Stampede social event in the mid-’60’s. (Bob Leonard)

Hart first entered the hospital back on September 29th, feeling groggy and experiencing trouble speaking. She went in and out of a coma in the weeks that followed, and the family had been prepared for the worst since early October.

She leaves behind a legendary wrestling family, headed by her husband of 53 years, Stu Hart. Together, they had 12 children, all of whom worked in the pro wrestling business in some capacity during the years, mostly through the family’s Stampede Wrestling promotion.

Helen Hart was the backbone to the Stampede promotion, handling all the financial affairs, setting up posters, arranging details, while Stu took care of the wrestling product.

Almost any wrestler who worked in the Stampede territory can tell tales of visiting the massive Hart House, a mansion on a hill in outer Calgary. Earlier this month, Jacques Rougeau Jr. told SLAM! Wrestling of his six weeks in Calgary when he was just a teen. “Every Sunday, I had dinner with the Harts and the cats,” he said with fond memories.

On the Stampede Wrestling¬†web site, former NWA World Champion Harley Race called Helen Hart “a princess among pirates.”

“Helen is as fine a lady I have ever met. I started coming here in the 70’s for at least 10 Stampede weeks. She did everything possible to make sure my stay here was comfortable. She treated me every bit as nice as a son. There are not enough words to describe her kindness. She is a unique person, and she is blessed more than as a human being,” Race wrote. “I remember being here one time and Stu, Helen and myself were in the car. We could see the northern lights, and Helen turned to Stu and said that they were the same lights he proposed to her under. I have never seen a couple with so much love for one another.”

At ringside in April 1999, where they received several standing ovations during the inaugural card of the reborn Stampede Wrestling. (Bob Leonard)

Born in New York City to Harry J. Smith, a medal contender for the mile in the 1912 Olympics, Stu met Helen in NYC after a stint in World War II. They were married during a blizzard in New York City in 1947.

Stu’s nickname for Helen was “Tigerbell.”

Funeral arrangements are not known at this time, though a funeral is expected on Friday.


Helen Hart: A friend’s recollection