Cobourg and District Sports Hall of Fame Announces New Inductees

In Editor Choice, Sports

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Every March since 2019 – with an appropriate adjournment for the COVID-19 pandemic – the local community looks forward to hearing the names of that year’s inductees into the Cobourg and District Sports Hall of Fame.

This year, that big event was held at the Baltimore Community Centre, underlining the fact that inductees are considered from the wider community. That would include Alderville First Nation and the Townships of Hamilton, Cramahe and Alnwick-Haldimand, in addition to Cobourg.

Eight new outstanding members of the CDSHF were announced March 3, the latest development in an initiative originally inspired by well-known athlete, sports-history buff and volunteer Ross Quigley, who lived to see the first several inductions come to pass.

Introduced in alphabetical order, as usual, the Class of 2024 was announced by emcee Joel Scott.

William John (Jack) Bevan was one of the founders of the Cobourg Legion Softball League in 1958. He was involved in all aspects of the organization, from coaching, umpiring and being in charge of equipment to serving on the local executive – even becoming a member of the OASA executive board. In 1994, the world-class Legion Fields facility opened on D’Arcy Street in Cobourg. Of the three diamonds, the middle one was named after him in a fitting tribute to a man who spent almost every summer night of his life at a diamond somewhere in his beloved hometown while giving so much to the community.

Robert (Jim) Bradford began his umpiring career in 1968 at local games and tournaments. Three decades of this work earned him a reputation as the top umpire in this area (and undoubtedly the best qualified). In 2000, he became the first Canadian umpire to earn Level 5 status in both fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball. Three years later, he was elected into the Canadian Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame, as well as into the Softball Ontario Hall of Fame.

Kristen (Fawcett) Dajia, who grew up in Colborne, became a multi-sport championship athlete in volleyball, hammer throw and women’s rugby. That took a lot of time training, all while teaching full-time and writing letters to Federal politicians urging parity and equality for women in track-and-field events. Her efforts would pay off, as Canada emerged as a leader in conferring official recognition on new track-and-field events for women and became one of the first countries to stage these events at our national championships.

Al F. Fenton never tried an athletic pursuit he didn’t excel in. The list included hockey, softball, basketball, football, and track-and-field. A regular competitor at Kawartha, COSSA and OFSSA events during his high-school years, his athletic talents were on constant display. As a result, no one was surprised when, at the age of 16, he was named Cobourg’s Athlete of the Year in 1967.

Effie Francis (Fran) Jay may never have played a sport, but she shaped the development of baseball and hockey in her community and beyond after watching her son receive recreational opportunities denied to her daughter. While playing a critical role in the growth and acceptance of women’s hockey, she took on countless administrative tasks – creating leagues, serving on executive boards, organizing tournaments and fundraisers, creating leagues, housing and feeding visiting umpires and teams, serving as a team liaison and working the canteen (just to name a few).

Lawrence Gerald (Larry) O’Connor is familiar to generations of students at CDCI West who saw the large framed photo of the athlete crouched at the starting line prominently featured in the office. He first came to prominence at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finishing sixth in the 100m hurdles. He went on to set Canadian records in the 110m high hurdle, 120-yd. high hurdles and 220-yd. low hurdles. In 1937, he set a new world indoor record in the 60-yd. high hurdles at the annual Maple Leaf Gardens Track Meet. At the 1938 British Empire Games (held in Australia), he was a gold-medal-winning member of the 4×110-yd. relay team and a silver medallist in the 120-yd. high hurdles, setting a Canadian record that stood for a quarter-century. A year later, he set another 25-year record with a time of 14.8 seconds in the 110m high hurdles.

Arthur (Art) Ravensdale (in whose honour Cobourg’s Ravensdale Road is named) at one time held both Canadian and world records in the 120-yd. low hurdles. In 1932, he took first place at the Canadian Track and Field Olympic Trials in the 100m hurdles and, with that, went on to represent Canada at that year’s Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In 1934, he again represented Canada at the British Empire Games in London, finishing fourth in the 120-yd. hurdles. He retired a year later after being recognized as the Canadian Hurdling Championship for seven consecutive years (1928 to 1934).

Dave (Earl) Waldie is that rare athlete who is considered elite in two sports. One of the more accomplished junior-age hockey players in local history, he was named WHL Rookie of the Year in 1986 and made the first WHL all-star team. He also won the Bill Anderson Sportsmanship Award for leadership and dedication, and the Pat Shugog trophy as MVP of the playoffs. Then there were his softball accomplishments, where he was part of 18 championship teams at local, provincial and national levels.

Cramahe Township Mayor Mandy Martin characterized the work of CDSHF volunteers as “such a wonderful exemplar of what we can do when we work together” and took a moment to commend the unsung people behind the scenes who keep things going, from the coaches to the volunteers to the fans.

Cobourg Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty pointed out that communities are not made on the council floor but on its playing fields.

“Legend and legacy – that’s what we are here to celebrate today,” she stated.

Alnwick-Haldimand Mayor John Logel agreed that while the individual stories are awe-inspiring, sports offer far more than that in terms of strengthening a community.

Hamilton Township Deputy Mayor Larry Williamson paid tribute to the four past inductees from Hamilton Township – softball legends Roger Cole and Allan Burnham, track-and-field champion Gail Johns-Rees, and Neil Cane (“the all-around athlete who helped make the Baltimore Rec Centre and Arena what they are today”). With help from CDSHF memorabilia, their tales are on display in the corridor of that centre.

While looking to the future, the event also honoured the past with a special presentation. On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the first group of eight to be inducted into the CDSHF, these individuals were invited back to be honoured with certificates of congratulations from Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini.

Only two members showed up in person to receive the honour.

Frank Mazza, who earned the nickname Fast Frank, is a gold-medal Olympian and a gold, silver and bronze medalist at the Paralympic World Games. Born with cerebral palsy, he was forced to rely on a wheelchair. Making his achievements even more impressive was the fact that he could propel his wheelchair with only his left arm, besting opponents competing with both arms. Mazza was inducted into the Ontario Cerebral Palsy Hall of Fame in 1990.

Don Ito was an outstanding all-around athlete who really found his calling as a competitive kite flyer. In 1966, he captured the Canadian National Championship and finished second overall at the US Nationals (which he won the following year – the same year he set a new world record in the Tricks competition in Montreal on his way to taking the North American Championship). He repeated his success in 1969, taking first place at the US Nationals and the North American Championship. In 1970, he once again won the Tricks division at the US Nationals and, in 1971, again finished first overall in the Senior Men’s Division.

Of the other six, the recognition came posthumously for some but all were represented.

Paul Currelly (represented by his three daughters) was instrumental in the 1963 founding of the Cobourg Girls Softball League, the same year he coached the Coverdale Aces (the prelude to the Cobourg Angels Girls Softball Organization). These teams went on to win five Ontario championships, not to mention league championships against teams with much larger centres, all under Currelly’s tutelage. In the late 1980s, he spearheaded the formation of the Cobourg Junior Angels Organization.

Fred Dufton (represented by his grandson Gord Burdick) became involved with high-school football as a result of his sons’ being on the team, but remained in team management after they graduated. He started up an intermediate team in 1935 and, two years later, the Cobourg Galloping Ghosts were begun – the team legendary reporter Layton Dodge called “the most famous of all teams in Cobourg’s history.” Over the next 13 years, under his management, they would win eight Ontario championships and become Dominion (Canadian Amateur) Football Champions in 1946, 1948 and 1950.

Layton Dodge (represented by his friend Dave Sommerville) joined the Cobourg Sentinel Star right out of high school as sportswriter and publisher. He covered most sports in Cobourg and surrounding communities with love, diligence, integrity and honesty, and had an immense impact on his home community right through his final column on Oct. 8, 1996.

Marty Kernaghan (represented by Katie Rutherford) demonstrated exceptional skills with a bat and ball early in life. By age 19, he had already been a part of three Ontario Amateur Softball Association and one Ontario Baseball Association championship teams. His prowess spread south of the border, where he was a member of championship teams for the American Softball Association as well as Softball Canada National Championships. He took home gold as a member of Team Canada at the 1983 Pan Am Championships and as a member of the 1992 ISF Men’s World Championships. Voted ISC All-World eight times, he was inducted into the ISC Fastball Hall of Fame in 2002.

Bill O’Neill (represented by his son Rob) was a treasured volunteer, whose services included serving as treasurer with the Cobourg Men’s Softball League and 19 years coaching the Cobourg Men’s Softball League (as well as four OASA Juvenile B teams during the 1970s). His service and contributions to the sport have previously been recognized with the title Mr. Softball as a result of winning the Ontario Amateur Association’s F.R. (Frank) Feaver trophy.

Steve Smith (represented by CDSHF board member Liz Basinger) was born in Scotland but took to hockey like a true Canadian once his family moved to Cobourg. He made the Junior A London Knights as a walk-on at an open camp and, in 1981, was 111th choice in the NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers. He went on to become a stalwart NHL defenceman, eventually playing in 804 career games, scoring 72 goals, adding 303 assists and tallying 375 points – not to mention winning three Stanley Cups (1987, 1988 and 1990) and a Canada Cup (1991).

Piccini said he thinks back fondly to his 2018 conversation with Ross Quigley about this project he was so determined to see to fruition.

“I always mention him because he leaves a legacy that will far outlive his years,” he said.

“Sports teams are history – our history as a community. We learn so much on the sports field about winning and, more importantly, about losing with grace.”

Looking ahead, master of ceremonies Joel Scott expressed gratitude to the CDSHF board for their work – Gil Brocanier, Liz Basinger, Amy Quigley DeJong, Todd Denault, Peter Harrison, Mike Irwin, Don Conway and Bryan Marjoram, along with event co-ordinator Lynda Kay.

Scott reminded everyone about the Ross Quigley Youth in Sport Award recently begun to honour students displaying athletic, academic and community achievement and involvement.

He also reminded the audience of two upcoming dates – June 14, which is the actual induction banquet at the Best Western in Cobourg, and Sept. 30, which is the deadline to nominate inductees for 2025.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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