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  May 24, 1999

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Owen's death is mom's worst nightmare

By MARK MILLER -- Calgary Sun
  Helen Hart used to have nightmares about her sons in the world of wrestling.
 She'd seen the dangers firsthand.
 The bouts in the famous wrestling Dungeon at their southwest Calgary home, where her husband Stu taught his kids and many of the sports stars the fineries of grappling, showed all too vividly the dangers of the sport.
 But when the phone call came last night that her son Owen had died tragically in a fall during a stunt at a wrestling match, the horror exceeded her worst nightmares.
 Her son Owen was dead.
 "I can't believe my Owen is gone," sobbed Helen.
 "I used to have nightmares about one of my sons getting crippled from wrestling ... but not this. I can't believe it."
 Wrestling was, of course, Owen's life, as it was for all 12 kids in the Hart family.
 The youngest of the family, Owen and his sister Diane, were called the "little Palominos" by Stu and Helen due to their blond hair.
 "He was my little baby, so clever and fun," said Helen.
 "He was the light of our lives."
 Owen first parted the ropes and entered the Dungeon's ring at age 4, said Stu.
 That first hold, the first fall, the first pin ... it produced a passion in Owen to follow his father's legendary footsteps into the world of wrestling.
 Stu remembers how Owen won a Canadian college wrestling title, but never managed to pursue his dream of wrestling in the Olympics.
 But in the late 80s, he was ready to join the family's professional Stampede Wrestling production. He paid his dues by first selling programs, carrying mops and pails, doing whatever he was asked to help the operation.
 But his real dream was to step into the ring. To be just like dad and later, his older brother Bret, an eventual WWF champion known as the Hitman.
 He got his chance about 10 years ago, bursting on the World Wrestling Federation scene, more often than not as a bad guy.
 In real life, he was anything but.
 "He was a great son," said dad Stu.
 "I have eight boys and they're all great, but Owen was just a wonderful fellow. Anything he wanted, he went out and got. To me, he had to be the favourite among all his brothers and sisters. They all loved him dearly.
 "As a wrestler, he loved to work hard to please the promoters and the crowds. He took pride in showing his reliability in making wrestling a career.
 "He spent his time in the WWF being quite serious about his career. "
 Being serious meant doing whatever the promoters wanted.
 He played the bad guy; he even battled with brother Bret in the ring for years.
 It was all part of the show. Owen was the consummate professional.
 But Stu and his wife, and indeed Owen, were well aware of the dangers of the sport.
 In recent years, the showmanship of professional wrestling has pushed the athletes to the limits.
 The stunt in Kansas City last night was not supposed to be dangerous, said Stu.
 "I know they've done it before, but Owen was a pretty careful athlete. He doesn't take unnecessary risks or chances," said Stu.
 The news of Owen's death came on television for the Hart family last night.
 A phone call from WWF promoter Vince McMahon a few minutes later confirmed the death.
 "You know all my kids wrestled, but it was something Owen loved from the start," said Stu.
 "I remember seeing him as a teen put on unequaled bouts beating men who weighed over 200 lbs.
 "He wanted to follow the footsteps of me and his brothers. He wanted to be the best he could.
 "I know he achieved what he wanted.
 "But even more than what he did in the ring, you knew what Owen was about by the fact he had no real enemies.
 "He was everyone's friend and a good family man.
 "I couldn't be more proud of a son."

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