By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
From Mary Ito’s piping in the honourees at the start to the mass toast to Ross Quigley at the end, the Cobourg and District Sports Hall of Fame’s 2020 Induction Ceremony was a long-anticipated occasion.
The eight inductees were announced in early March 1, 2020, at the Cobourg Community Centre, where their showcases of selections from their memorabilia inventory are on display.
Unfortunately, the ceremony at the Best Western Plus Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre was delayed by COVID-19.
Hall of Fame President Gil Brocanier said their selection committee is reviewing current submissions from their catchment area of Cobourg, Alderville First Nation and the Townships of Hamilton, Cramahe and Alnwick-Haldimand – leading up to an announcement of their third round of inductees in March 2022.
But on Friday night, the focus was on the current eight.
Born in Cobourg Sept. 11, 1950, Gord Brooks has the distinction of being Cobourg’s first National Hockey League player. His road to that honour, of course, came after time with the Cobourg Church Hockey League, Cobourg’s Junior B Cougars and Junior A seasons with the Hamilton Red Wings and London Knights.
His NHL career with the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals was followed by his making a name for himself in the North Amerian Hockey League and the American Hockey League. With the Philadelphia Firebirds and Syracuse Firebirds, he averaged 93 points a season between 1975 and 1980. His team won the American Hockey League’s Lockhart Cup in 1977 and, the following year, Brooks won the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the league’s scoring champion. He was also part of the league’s first All-Star Team.
He played briefly in Austria after that before helping the Saginaw Gears win an international league championship.
Two years after retiring as as pro, he came back to play senior hockey for Brantford, winning an Allan Cup.
His wife Beth was present to accept the honour, recalling his love of hockey – and how he always cited his favourite team as “whoever plays against the Leafs.”
“He was so proud he was born and raised in Cobourg,” his wife Beth Brooks said.
Cane’s own athletic career included hockey, softball, baseball an high-school sports, winning multiple Ontario Amateur Softball Association championships and being named MVP of the Cobourg Mercantile Hockey League.
He was also a well-respected coach, umpire and referee in many local leagues, but his support of the local sporting community went beyond that.
In Baltimore, he fundraised for two arena constructions over the years. His leadership while working at the Baltimore Recreation Complex included lights for the existing diamond, and then additional diamonds, a basketball court, volleyball court, canteen and washroom facilities.
Previous honours poured in from the Cobourg Church Hockey League, Legion Minor Softball, the OASA, the Baltimore Arena Committee and Cobourg Men’s Softball League. As well, he was named Hamilton Township’s Senior of the Year and received the highest award the Rotary Club of Cobourg can bestow, the Paul Harris Fellowship.
“Our father loved his family, he loved sports, and he definitely loved his community,” daughter Cathy said
Rev. Dr. Kevin Fast
Born in St. Catharines, Dr. Fast came to Cobourg’s St. Paul’s Lutheran Church from Manitoba in 1993.
He only displayed average athletic ability while growing up but, when he heard about the Highland Games at the YMCA, he was intrigued by talk of people throwing telephone poles and rocks around. He attended and accepted an invitation to try his hand at the caber toss. Even though he had to ask the judge what he was supposed to do, he won the event.
He went from amateur to professional status competing in heavy events – until one day he saw a man pulling a fire truck on TV.
“So I called up the fire department,” Dr. Fast said.
“I said, ‘Can I borrow a fire truck’ and – this could only happen in a place like Cobourg – they said sure.”
The guy on the other end was Brian Darling, now a town councillor. They arranged for him to pull the truck downtown to publicize Fire Prevention Week. In fact, towing an 18-ton truck gave him his first Guinness world record in 1998. When someone else beat that record, he actually won it back.
Thereafter, he was setting records around the world. As of February, the total stood at 34, with 31 Guinness World Book of Records listings.
One of his most incredible feats happened in 2009 at CFB Trenton, when he pulled a 416,299-lb. C177 Globemaster III Aircraft a distance of 8.8 metres.
Earning the nickname The Powerlifting Pastor, he has appeared on many TV shows and has been invited to compete and make appearances around the world. But Christian charity has been part of this journey as well, as he organized his events as fundraisers for various charities. For example, when he set one of his world records by pulling a house, he set it up to raise $70,000 for Habitat For Humanity.
“I believe God has given me this gift, and I am going to use it to the best of my ability.”
Dr. Fast then called for a toast.
“To Cobourg – a place that my wife and I and many of us like to call home,” he said.
“Without the Town of Cobourg, I probably would not have a record to my name. It takes a town!”
Margaret Anne Matthews
Born May 5, 1960, in Cobourg, Matthews is one of the town’s best-ever all-around athletes.
She recalled growing up in Baltimore and being disappointed when her mother said they were moving to Cobourg. They softened the blow for her by enrolling her in softball. That was how she made her mark with the Sinclair Mustangs, who captured the Ontario Novice Championship. Matthews said she was so glad to be inducted at the same ceremony as her coach, Clarke Sommerville.
“I was prouder than proud to be in the Cobourg Angels,” she recalled of her subsequent team.
“They were top-class.”
They were coached by 2019 inductee Paul Currelly and, her first year there, they won the provincial juvenile title – “the first one in Angels history. I don’t think I have ever seen Mr. Currelly so happy. We were on the front page of the Cobourg Star the very next day.
“My years as a Cobourg Angel were some of my favourite sporting memories of my whole life.”
Currelly returned the compliment, saying, “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.”
CDCI West was sporting heaven for someone with her competitive streak – “more tams to be on, games to play, friends to be with.”
During those year, she was named MVP on both the basketball and volleyball teams, receiving a coaching award and the CDCI West Athlete of the Year honour. In 1979, the school created The
Matthews Award that would thereafter honour students displaying exceptional performance and leadership.
Matthews fondly remembered one of her coaches Jerry Lawless as “a truly great man,” and has never forgotten his words – “if you’re not nervous, you’re not ready.”
She took up hockey at Centennial College and, later, basketball at Wilfrid Laurier University. Then she went on to learn golf and again enjoy the journey of learning to excel at something new. She was on Team Ontario in 2004 and 2011 when they went on to win Canadian Interprovincial Golf titles. She has also won literally dozens of club championships.
“Sports has provided me with so many gifts – mentorship, leadership, guidance and, most important, great relationships,” Matthews said.
Daniel Ross Milligan
Born in London in 1953, Milligan came to Cobourg with his family as a youth who had enjoyed softball, hockey, track and badminton. He watched his dad enjoy lawn bowling, and decided to have a go at that. At this point, he has been involved in the sport for 53 years.
He won the Provincial Singles Championship in 1981 and represented Canada five times on Canada’s National Team. In his first international meet, his bronze medal made him Canada’s first outdoor medalist in 30 years. Following his showing at the Pacific Games in Australia, his 1986 silver medal at the Commonwealth Games marked the first for Canada in more than four decades.
Milligan’s contribution to the sport was also off the field. He was National Coaching Chairperson from 1983 through 1997, authoring materials for all National Bowls Technical Manuals. From 1992 to 1997, he was the National Bowls Coach and served as their team coach at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria.
Long regarded as the highest-ranked bowls coach in Canada, he developed the Bowls High Performance Coaching Program and became known as The Delivery Doctor.
He and his wife Brenda started MVP Sports in 1985 and became Canada’s largest supporter of lawn bowls. He also developed the Ubi_Launcher, designed to make lawn bowling possible for those with mobility issues – a made-in-Cobourg product.
Milligan won Canada’s Confederation Medal in 1992 for his accomplishments and was inducted into the Ontario Bowls all of Fame in 2018.
Kenneth Wayne James Petrie was born in Stratford, and was 11 years old when his family moved to Cobourg in 1957. He would devote much of his adult life to minor sports in Cobourg through the Cobourg Church Hockey League, the Legion Minor Softball Association and the Cobourg Baseball Association.
This began when he was 19 and Layton Dodge – a 2019 inductee – recruited him to volunteer with the CCHL as assistant coach. From there, he proved to be a tireless coach, manager, trainer, fundraiser, bingo volunteer, executive member, committee member and all-around go-to person for more than half a century.
His teams produced an amazing record of championships, including 10 provincial minor-sports titles. This included Cobourg Legion Minor Softball’s first-ever provincial title, made possible for the Red Wings by the dedicated work of Petrie and Tom Savage.
He found time to umpire, referee, timekeep and organize various tournaments and, as one of his associates noted, you didn’t mind helping him as he never asked anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.
“I can’t count the times of being told that he touched so many lives through ball, hockey, working at the arena in Baltimore,” Petrie’s sister Mary Ainsworth said.
“He was very proud of each and every team and organization he worked with.”
Known as the Ojibway Thunderbolt, Fred Simpson was born in Alderville First Nation in 1878. Raised by his grandmother after both parents died, he grew to possess great strength and stamina that would make him one of Canada’s best runners.
One of his early runs was in the 10-mile Peterborough Examiner road race, where his third-place finish caught the eye of Dick Baker, Coach of the YMCA harrier team. He worked with Simpson, who went on to a second-place finish in the premier Hamilton Herald road race of 1907.
He kept improving to a point where he made the Canadian team that would compete in the 1908 Olympics in London, England. He was one of 32 runners to begin the marathon at Windsor Castle, and one of 14 who finished. His 3:04:28 time put him in sixth place.
Simpson turned professional after the Olympics, racing on a circuit that took him across the US and Canada. After the 1911-1912 season was over, he retired.
Alderville First Nation Chief Dave Mowat grew up hearing Simpson’s stories and found them so inspiring.
“One must consider the oppression of the Indian Act – people living on the reserve had no rights. They were not considered citizens so, legally, they had no place in Canadian society,” Mowat said.
Given that reality, he said, Simpson’s accomplishments were revolutionary – “that an Indian from an Indian reserve in Canada would turn professional and make more money than the professional Indian Agent that ran the reserve.”
To put it into perspective, Mowat said, Simpson might make up to $10,000 at a time when a teacher made $400 to $700 a year.
On the down side, he added, media coverage would – when reporting on occasions when Simpson performed at a level less than expected – blame it on his ethnicity.
Simpson was living in Alderville when he died on May 19, 1945. In 2011, a stone was placed on his unmarked grave in the Alderville First Nation cemetery commemorating his life and his feats.
Born in Toronto in 1930, Robert Clarke Sommerville worked his way up to Junior A hockey, going on to compete in the American Hockey League. He came to Cobourg in 1952 when he purchased the small retail store that became the legendary Sommerville’s Sporting Goods.
Sommerville enjoyed golf, hockey and softball in his new community, but also joined the executive of the Cobourg Church Hockey League. Working quietly with other interested parties, he helped launch a lacrosse program league for kids that operated out of the Cobourg Memorial Arena.
And in the mid-1960s, his work with Dick Robinson, Jeff Rolph and Layton Dodge resulted in the establishment of the Junior B Cobourg Cougars. Sommerville would be a Cobourg Cougars lifetime executive member and serve many roles with the team (including general manager).
And as Margaret Anne Matthews noted, he was instrumental in the success of the Sinclair Mustangs at provincial level.
All the while, his store became a gathering spot for people to gather and discuss current issues. Many important decisions were made around its fabled pop cooler.
Dave Sommerville said his father believed everyone should be able to participate regardless of gender, race, physical size or financial status.
“He would be honoured to be included with Neil Cane and Ken Petrie – they definitely made our sports world a better place.”
Recalling the innumerable interesting conversations his dad enjoyed with previous inducted Layton Dodge, he added that it’s nice to think of the two of them in the same company again.
Brocanier ended the evening with a tribute to Quigley who – unable to attend due to health issues – had made a pre-taped greeting for the occasion.
Quigley filled his basement with sports memorabilia and literally hundreds of clippings of local sports coverage organized in binders. He worked hard for his vision of a sports hall of fame, put together a powerful committee and persisted until the organization as it is today was built.
To honour this contribution, Brocanier announced, the Ross Quigley Youth In Sports Award will be given out every year to a young person who has made a significant contribution to sports.
“It doesn’t have to be an athlete. It could be someone who has worked behind the scenes, someone who has coached, managed, been a statistician.
“I think this is something that will deservedly keep Ross’s legacy going many years into the future.
“He has left a terrific legacy, and that is why we wanted something to keep his legacy going. We will be making that announcement next year about the first award we are giving out.”