Cobourg and District Hall of Fame Hall Gains Eight New Luminaries

In Editor Choice, Sports

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The second annual announcement of inductees in the Cobourg and District Sports Hall of Fame added eight names of renown to the eight announced in 2019.

Emcee Joel Scott welcomed everyone to the ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

“One of the great things about this is, we are going to get to hear eight great, amazing stories – not just athletes but community builders,” Scott said.

Awards were announced in alphabetical order since, because of the wide variety of achievements, any idea of ranking was irrelevant.

Gord Brooks
Born in Cobourg Sept. 11, 1950, Brooks has the distinction of being the town’s first NHL player.
His minor-hockey days were played with the Cobourg Church Hockey League and, in his 1967-68 season with the Junior B Cougars, he collected 21 goals, 26 assists and 44 minutes in penalties. His Junior A career was with the Hamilton Red Wings and London Knights.
At the end of his 1969-1970 season, he was drafted 51st overall by the St. Louis Blues, spending his first pro season with their farm team (the Kansas City Blues). Between 1971 and 1975, he played 70 NHL games with the Blues and with the Washington Capitals.
Between 1975 and 1980, he played in the North American Hockey League and the American Hockey League, making a name for himself with both the Philadelphia Flyers and Syracuse Firebirds – averaging 93 points a season (for a total of 464) and being part of the 1977 team that won the American Hockey League championship Lockhart Cup.
In 1978, he won the AHL’s John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the league scoring champion, and was named to their first All-Star Team.
He played part of the 1980 season in Klagenfurt, Austria, until a knee injury forced him out. The following year, he was part of the Saginaw Gears team that won an international league championship.
Two years after retiring as a pro, he returned to Canada to play senior hockey (and win an Allan Cup) for Brantford.
Brooks and his wife Beth now live in London in order to be close to their children and grandchildren.


Neil Cane
A much-loved and respected member of the local sporting community for decades, Cane had an athletic career that included winning Cobourg Mercantile Hockey League championships in the mid-’60s (as well as a most-valuable-player title in 1959).
And each summer found him immersed in softball, not only as a skilled catcher but also as an excellent and respected umpire and referee in many leagues throughout the region. In fact, this kind of volunteering would become his calling in life.
When Cane began working at the Baltimore Recreation Complex, he turned its attention to the single softball diamond. He helped acquire the lights from Cobourg’s Victoria Park and had them installed to permit night games. The addition of three more diamonds under his leadership helped make the complex a world-class softball facility.
Scott humourously offered to let everyone stop and grab a drink before he embarked on the long list of awards and recognitions extended to Cane over the years – the Cobourg Church Hockey League Outstanding Service Award, the Legion Minor Softball Certificate of Merit, Legion Minor Softball’s Peewee Coach of the Year, Ontario Amateur Softball Association Outstanding Service Award (in both 1995 and 1998), the Baltimore Arena Committee’s Devotion of Duty Award, the Cobourg Men’s Softball League’s Thanks For The Memories Award, Hamilton Township’s Senior of the Year Award and the Rotary Club of Cobourg’s highest honour – the Paul Harris Fellowship.
The list acknowledges an extraordinary legacy that will remain etched into the heart of the community.


Dr. Rev. Kevin Fast
Born in St. Catharines April 17, 1963, Fast served several congregations before coming to Cobourg’s St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in 1992.
He was of average athletic ability growing up but, once in Cobourg, was intrigued by the annual Highland Games. Although he’d never seen these events before, he accepted a 1994 invitation to compete – and surprised himself with a win. Inspired by this turn of events, he went on to attempt feats of strength that did not seem humanly possible.
Pulling everything from trains and planes to fire trucks and houses, he has recorded 34 world records for feats of strength and appears in the Guinness World Book of Records for setting 31 records. He became known as the Powerlifting Pastor for these accomplishments (like the 2009 visit to the Canadian Forces Base at Trenton to tow the 416,299-lb. Globemaster III Aircraft a distance of 8.8 metres).
Fast has appeared on many TV shows to discuss these amazing feats, many of which have been set up as fundraisers that brought in thousands of dollars for many charities (like the time he set a new world record pulling a house ad used the event to raise $70,000 for Habitat For Humanity Northumberland).
At 5’9” tall and 300 lb., Fast lives by a simple belief: “God has given me the gift of strength and, in thanksgiving, I will use it for His Glory as long as I have it.”


Margaret Anne Matthews
Matthews was born in Cobourg May 15, 1960, and soon showed signs of being an abundantly talented multi-sport athlete who also exhibited exceptional leadership qualities.
She burst upon the provincial-softball stage at age 12 as a member of David and Clarke Sommerville’s Sinclair Mustangs, when the team captured the Ontario Novice Championships.
At 14, she joined Paul Currelly’s Cobourg Angels juvenile softball team, competing against 18- and 19-year-old players. While on the team, she won two more Ontario titles at the Junior B level in 1975 and 1976. In all, she won seven Ontario softball championships and word of praise from Currelly (who was one of the first Cobourg Sports Hall of Fame inductees in 2019): “When you are talking about Margie, you are talking about one of the best juvenile ball players anywhere. Her desire and hustle keep the entire team moving.”
She was an outstanding multi-sport athlete during her high-school years at CDCI West from 1974 to 1979. Active in both basketball and volleyball, she received a coaching award, earned an Athlete of the Year title, and had an award dedicated to her. As of 1979, the Matthews Award would recognize outstanding performance and leadership.
She continues to display extraordinary skill as a golfer, with 18 club championships to her credit (16 at the Stratford Country Club and two at Woodstock’s Craigowan Golf Club). As a member of the Ontario Women’s Amateur golf team in 2004, she won the Canadian championship. In 2009, she won the Golf Ontario Women’s Mid-Am title with scores of 73-75-69.


Daniel Ross Milligan
Born Aug. 26, 1953, in London, Milligan first encountered lawn bowling when he and his sister Sharyl Ann tagged along when their dad played at the Agincourt Lawn Bowling Club. By the time he came to Cobourg in 1980, he was accomplished at the sport in his own right. Over the years, he would represent Canada five times internationally.
In 1981, he was the Provincial and International Singles champion, as well as being a bowls multi-medalist.
In 1985, at the Pacific Games in Tweed Heads, Australia, he placed first in the pairs event.
The following year, at the Hong Kong Classic, he was a pairs champion. At that year’s Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland, he won a silver medal in fours.
He was awarded Canada’s Confederation Medal in 1992 for his contributions to the sport.
Milligan was National Coaching chairperson from 1983 through 1987, and was National Team Coach at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, BC.
He is the highest-ranked bowls coach in Canada. He was invited back to the National Program four years ago to lead a team of coaches in developing the High-Performance Coaching Program. At present, he is Canada’s only Master Evaluator and Master Learning Facilitator.
Milligan was inducted into the Ontario Bowls Hall of Fame in 2018.
Investing hundreds of hours each year teaching bowlers the game’s fundamental elements (and helping them learn the art of delivery), his work in the sport of lawn bowling is felt nationally and beyond.


Kenneth Wayne James Petrie
Born in Stratford July 11, 1946, Petrie moved to Cobourg with his family in 1957. He has unselfishly devoted more than half a century to the town’s minor sports in such organizations as the Cobourg Church Hockey League, the Legion Minor Softball Association and the Cobourg Baseball Association.
At age 19, he was recruited by Layton Dodge (another of the initial eight Hall of Fame inductees in 2019) to volunteer with the CCHL as assistant coach, beginning an association that lasted until the organization moved to the Cobourg Community Centre in 2011. He worked tirelessly as coach, manager, trainer, fundraiser, bingo volunteer, executive member and more. This work included a record 11 terms as CCHL president, and his service was recognized with a Life Membership (as well as the praise of Dodge, who called him the driving force behind the CCHL).
His teams have enjoyed an amazing list of championships, with 10 provincial titles. Together with Thomas Savage, Petrie coached the Legion squirt Red Wings to a provincial championship that was the first one Cobourg Legion Minor Softball could boast.
Which was not something Petrie would do – a quiet man who let his actions talk for him, he would collect many certificates, citations, plaques and awards for his service to the local sports community.


Fred Simpson
Sometimes known as the Ojibway Thunderbolt, Simpson was born in Alderville in 1878. As an adult, he would stand 5’11” tall and weigh 145 lb., possessed of a strength and stamina that would carry him to acknowledgment as one of Canada’s best runners.
During 1906 – having moved to the Hiawatha Reserve on Rice Lake’s north shore and married Susan Muskrat – he began training as a long-distance runner. His third-place finish in the 10-mile Peterborough Examiner road race caught the eye of YMCA harrier track team coach Dick Baker, who began to work with the promising young athlete.
He gained an even bigger limelight the following year with a second place in the premier Hamilton Herald road race (a feat he would repeat in 1908).
He continued to improve to the point that he qualified to compete in the 1908 Olympics in London, England. Of 32 runners on the course from Buckingham Palace to Shepherd’s Bush, only 14 completed the marathon. Simpson was one of those finishers, with a time of 3:04:28.
He turned professional in 2009, competing on a circuit that would take him to Savannah, Chicago, New York City, Newark, Buffalo, Fort William, Montreal and Toronto. He continued through the end of the 2011-2012 racing season and returned to Hiawatha to his wife and family.
They returned to Alderville in 1923, and Simpson passed away in 1945. In 2011, a stone was placed on his unmarked grave in Alderville First Nation cemetery commemorating his life and feats as a long-distance runner.


Robert Clarke Sommerville
Born in Toronto Dec. 5, 1930, Sommerville loved playing hockey He worked his way up to the Junior A ranks, spending four years as the Galt Black Hawks goalie and then two with the American Hockey League (playing with Philadelphia and Washington).
He came to Cobourg in 1952 when he purchased the small retail store that would become Sommerville’s Sporting Goods, and immediately became involved in the local sporting community. He would play for the intermediate hockey team, join the golf club, pitch in the town softball league and join the Cobourg Church Hockey League executive.
With a group of like-minded men, he was also instrumental in forming a youth lacrosse league that operated out of the old Cobourg Memorial Arena.
With Dick Robinson, Jeff Rolph and Layton Dodge, Sommerville helped start and fund a local Junior B hockey team, the Cobourg Cougars. He would be a lifetime executive member and serve in many roles with the team (including general manager).
He was also involved with minor softball – in 1972, he and his son David coached their Sinclair Mustangs to an Ontario Softball championship.
That downtown store played its own role in local sports, serving as a gathering spot for people to visit and talk. Many important sports-scene decisions were made by groups gathered around the store’s pop cooler.
The store also supported many sports and athletes in countless ways behind the scenes.
Sommerville remained proud of (and humbled by) his association with the successes of the Cobourg Cougars, Cold Springs Cats and countless other teams and oragnizations. He was also an athlete on his own. But his true legacy was as a builder of sports, whose contributions continue to have a lasting impact.

The eight amazing stories were followed by the unveiling of additional memorabilia in new display cases and an invitation to all present to their second annual induction banquet on June 20.

The Hall of Fame initiative began in 2016. At this point, they have collected almost 1,000 pieces of memorabilia and identified 98 different sports enjoyed by area residents over the years.

“We are trying to write as complete a story as we can on every one of them,” chair Ross Quigley said.

“If you have any old scrapbook in your basement, please don’t throw them out – bring them to us and we’ll keep them forever.”

That should be an easier process, once the group’s website is launched in June.

Mayor John Henderson thanked them for their work.

“What they are doing is so critical, so important to our community,” Henderson said.

“What this team is doing is telling our history, and I can’t think of anything more important than telling the history of our area.”

Alderville First Nations Chief Dave Mowat expressed his community’s keen interest in the project.

“Alderville has a history of sports – its band members have participated in the early Olympic movement,” the chief said.

“One hundred years ago or more, our athletes participated in the Olympic games. They did so to win gold, and they participated while wearing the maple leaf. They also participated representing our nation.”

Cramahe Township Mayor Mandy Martin said she knew many of those present from her girlhood days in Gore’s Landing.

“What bound us together was cheering for those teams, and their successess were a celebration of who we are,” Martin stated.

“I am so honoured to be here and to witness this.”

Clearly enjoying the event, Henderson said, “I see this going on forever.

“This is number two, and I’m already looking forward to number three.”

Meanwhile, the official induction of the 2020 honourees will take place at the June 20 dinner at Cobourg’s Best Western Inn and Convention Centre. Tickets are available at Sommerville’s, the Cobourg Community Centre and from board members.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

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