Overflow crowd gathers for Cobourg Sports Hall of Fame opening

By Cecilia Nasmith

An amazing range of sports was represented – in memorabilia and hall-of-fame inductees – at Sunday's launch of the Cobourg Sports Hall of Fame.

Emcee Joel Scott welcomed an overflow audience in the Grand Hall at the Cobourg Community Centre to share the landmark opening.

It has taken about three years of effort on the part of the original board (Ross Quigley, John Ovens, Mike Irwin, Richard Irvine, Peter Harrison, John Hayden, Don Conway and Liz Basinger, with Jennifer Ashley and former mayor Gil Brocanier coming on board as vacancies arose) to reach this point.

These pioneers had lots of help to get this far, and certificates of appreciation were given to key players like the Rotary Club of Cobourg, who were founding sponsors, and Harry Cortesis, who donated many of the display cases, As well, the Town of Cobourg was thanked for supporting the project right from the concept stage. John and Darlene Lammers of Northumberland Glass donated the glass in the custom-built display cases that were donated by cabinet craftsman Frank Bouwmans.

Others honoured for their support were Peter Lorenz, Stevenson Cartage, Pro Electric, Brian and Kym Read, and Horizon Plastics.

The last honouree was the Peterborough Sports Hall of Fame, whose guidance in the nuts and bolts of setting up a Cobourg counterpart were invaluable. Then they made themselves even more invaluable when representatives accepting the certificate presented a $2,000 donation.

Rare 1952 footage of one of the Galloping Ghosts home games was playing (without audio) on a TV screen as Scott announced the first eight people inducted into their pantheon of greats and offered a brief bio for each.

Layton Dodge was born in Cobourg March 14, 1937. After graduating from Cobourg Collegiate Institute, he got a job at as sportswriter at his home-town newspaper, the Cobourg Sentinel Star. He published his first column Sept. 5, 1957, and his last one just over 39 years later. In between the two, he was a familiar sight around town on his bicycle, making his way to sporting events of all kinds in Cobourg – and he got to many events in the surrounding community as well.

His coverage pleased many proud parents, grandparents and coaches, and his stories reflected his values of love, diligence, integrity and honesty. He also believed that sports were as important to the house-league player as they were to the rep-team player, and he gave equal coverage to each. Dodge also served a statistician for many leagues and organizations so, in a sense, he never left the world of local sports.

“Layton Dodge – one of a kind,” Scott declared

“Simply the best.”

Paul Currelly was born in Port Hope Sept. 3, 1926. He moved to Cobourg in 1951, a cross-country runner who was also an all-around athlete who enjoyed basketball, baseball, hockey and football. He became a respected backfielder for the Galloping Ghosts from 1947 to 1952. A note in the program from one of the Ghost games described him as a “Good steady football player that can always be counted on for an all-out effort – a good team player all the way.”

He kept this philosophy and attitude foremost when he became a founding member of the Cobourg Girls' Softball League in 1963. That same year, he began coaching the Coverdale Aces. This team would eventually become the Cobourg Angels Softball Organization, whose teams went on to win five Ontario championships as well as numerous league and tournament titles.

He may have been an athlete in his own right, Scott said, but he became the major influence in women's softball in Cobourg for 40 years.

Fred Dufton was born in Stratford in 1886. He moved his family to Cobourg in 1926 to work at Edwards and Edwards Tanneries, and became interested in football when his three sons started to play at Cobourg Collegiate Institute. He got involved and became manager of the school's teams.

After the boys left high school, he decided to start an intermediate football team in 1935. The team was known as the Red Raiders, a name that was changed two years later to the Cobourg Galloping Ghosts.

Dufton earned the nickname Ferocious Fred because of his drive to win, and he made the Ghosts the most famous of all teams in Cobourg sports history with a record of eight Ontario titles and three Canadian titles in 13 years.

One of the most illustrious and successful sportsmen the community has ever known, Scott said, he strove to excel in any endeavour and believed in making the most of each opportunity and ability.

Don Ito was born Aug. 16, 1937, in BC, moving to Cobourg with his family in 1941. He was an outstanding athlete, playing two seasons with the Peterborough Petes Junior B hockey team in the mid-1950s. In the early 1960s, he moved on to drag car racing, winning many trophies with his 1962 Chevy 409 Impala at the Shannonville Racetrack. But about the same time, he found his true calling with the formation of the Rice Lake Waterski Club.

Starting in 1966, he would win the Canadian Nationals and place second in the US Nationals. In 1967, he won first place in the US Nationals. In 1968, he won the US Nationals again and accumulated a perfect score of 4,000 points. That same year at the North American Championships, he broke the world record for tricks and was declared overall champion. In 1969, he won the US Nationals and, in the North American Championship in Montreal, he again led the field in winning the open division. In 1970, he won the Tricks Division Championship once again at the US Nationals. In 1971 at the US National Kite Flying Championship, he took senior men's honours with a slalom run of 48 buoys, including six on a 40-ft. line – a feat thought to be impossible.

Marty Kernaghan was born Aug. 9, 1958, in Grafton. From a very early age, he showed exceptional promise in hockey and fastball, but would really go far in the latter. Between 1969 and 1977, he won three Ontario Amateur Softball championships, plus an OBA Ontario Championship in baseball.

His fastball career took him to the local Cold Springs Cats, then on to the Oshawa Tonys and, after that, to Alberta. His next stop was the Pencorp team in Sioux City, Iowa. Over his career, he played in 11 International Softball Conference world tournaments.

Kernaghan was voted an ISC All World All-Star eight times, First Team four times, and batted .361, getting 60 hits in 166 at-bats, while scoring 31 times with 36 RBIs.

In 2002, he was elected to the International Softball Conference Fastball Hall of Fame.

Bill O'Neil was born in Oldcastle Dec. 28, 1924. He first started working at General Foods in Windsor at the age of 18, and moved with them to Cobourg in 1963. He coached the local General Foods softball team in the Cobourg Town League from 1963 to 1970, and also coached Juvenile and Junior OASA teams that played in the town league from 1971 to 1990. During the '70s, he was the coach of four championship Juvenile B OASA teams.

He has been recognized for his dedication as treasurer and a volunteer for the Cobourg Town League for 40 years. On Nov. 7, 2007, he was recognized by the Ontario Amateur Softball Association as Ontario's Mr. Softball.

Frank Mazza was born with cerebral palsy April 7, 1958. The disease affected his body movement, muscle control, posture, balance, fine motor skills and oral motor functioning.

He had to use a wheelchair for mobility and, in the early 1980s, began wheelchair racing. Much to his surprise, he won many competitions at both local and provincial meets. Next came a racing wheelchair and a two-year training program with Team Canada.

In the 1984 provincial games, Mazza won the 60-metre, 100-metre and 400-metre sprints That same year at the International Games for the Disabled, he won a gold medal for Canada in the 4x100-metre relay. In the 1986 CP Games in Belgium, he won gold in the 4x100-metre relay, silver in the 400-metre race and bronze in the 100-metre event. His career was cut short thereafter by a 1986 cancer diagnosis.

In 1990, Mazza was inducted into the Ontario Cerebral Palsy Sports Hall of Fame.

Steve Smith was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and came to Cobourg at a young age. For a future NHL great, the young man found that hockey did not come easily for him. He was never drafted by a junior team. But he stuck with it. By age 17, he was a 6'3” 180-lb. prospect who caught the eye of the Junior A London Knights.

He went on to become a mid-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers. He would play in 804 NHL games, scoring 72 goals and 303 assists for 375 points. He won three Stanley Cups and a Canada Cup.

He would also play for the Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames before back injuries ended his career. Since then, he has accepted assistant-coach positions with Calgary, Edmonton and Carolina. He is now an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres.

An official induction ceremony for these eight honourees is planned June 22 at the Best Western Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre. Tickets will be available in early May from any board member.

The event ended with display cases unveiled to reveal just some of the 700 pieces of memorabilia they have catalogued and curated.

Calls for nominations for the next round of hall-of-fame inductees will come this fall, Scott said. Meanwhile, anyone with memorabilia they are willing to donate can contact any of the board members.