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Martha Hart married into a Canadian wrestling family dynasty, but she never followed the sport.

However, losing her husband Owen Hart in a freak wrestling accident last year plunged Ms. Hart into the centre of a very public battle with the World Wrestling Federation over his death.

This week, Ms. Hart and her lawyer, Pamela Fischer, scored the kind of victory Mr. Hart's boss, WWF kingpin Vince McMahon, would never have scripted for public consumption.

"This was a true David-and-Goliath story here and we won. Two women took on the WWF and won," Ms. Hart said yesterday during an interview in her southwest Calgary home.

Still, it makes this week's settlement in her wrongful-death lawsuit for $18-million (U.S.), according to The Kansas City Star, only bittersweet. Then again, the death of her high-school sweetheart and the father of their 8-year-old son Oje and 5-year-old daughter Athena, shouldn't have been played out before the eyes of thousands, either.

The 33-year-old wrestler died in May, 1999, after falling more than five storeys as he was being lowered from the top of an arena to the ring for a WWF pay-per-view event in Kansas City, Mo.

About 16,000 fans watched in horror as paramedics at the Kemper Arena took away the man known to fans as the Blue Blazer. A few minutes later, after the ring was cleared, the remaining wrestling matches continued.

A month later, Ms. Hart, her children and Mr. Hart's parents filed the wrongful-death lawsuit against the WWF, the City of Kansas City and the workers who set up the cable rigging.

"Now there's closure because it's over for me.

"It's over for the children and the beauty of it is that I'm taking it a step further.

"I didn't just win a lawsuit, I'm going to do greater things because of it," Ms. Hart said as a parade of reporters walked in and out of her home.

Using some money from the settlement, Ms. Hart, 34, plans to launch an Owen Hart Foundation to help people such as the working poor and students who want to attend college or university but can't afford tuition.

"If I can go out and help people. In my heart and in my head, then this is okay that this happened to Owen because if it hadn't then we could never go and help these people," she said.

Although Ms. Hart can't talk about the terms of the settlement, according to The Kansas City Star the deal includes $10-million for Ms. Hart, $3-million to each of the two children, and $1-million for each of his aging parents, Stu and Helen Hart.

An Alberta Court of Queen's Bench judge still has to approve the terms of the agreement, including tax-exempt status for the money earmarked to the children for mental anguish.

A Missouri judge signed off on the deal Tuesday.

But Mr. Hart's death and the lawsuit created a major rift in the Calgary wrestling family, which counts Owen as the youngest among Stu and Helen's brood of 12 children.

"I always felt like Owen seemed to get lost in the shuffle," said Ms. Hart, describing the family strife as "very unfortunate and disappointing."

Stu Hart is probably best known as the man behind Stampede Wrestling, the forerunner to today's ultra-successful WWF and Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling.

Today, Owen's widow has Hart-family contact only with his brothers, Wayne, Keith and Bret (The Hitman) Hart, the latter whose life and move to the WCW from the WWF was the subject of an award-winning documentary.

A documentary about Owen's life by the same filmmaker is in production.

In the meantime, the WWF, Kansas City and the rigging workers are continuing their lawsuit against the manufacturer and supplier of the nautical release clip, meant for use on boats.

"Owen was concerned about the stunt. He definitely was worried about it. We talked about it," Ms. Hart said.

But she has put that, and the controversial world of wrestling, behind her.

Her children rarely tuned in to see their father on television before, and since his death, talk of wrestling hasn't entered their house.

"Now it's over and you let it go and you don't carry it around. It's done and I've resolved that within myself," she said.

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