Hall of Fame class of 2019
The St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame welcomed five new members Wednesday.
Wanita Dykstra-May, Tonya Verbeek, Bill Schenck, Ron (Swede) Burak and Ellard (Obie) O’Brien were all inducted and now have their names on a plaque on the David S. Howes Wall of Fame.
The induction ceremony was held at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines before a large gathering of friends and family.
“It was great to see so many people and so many familiar faces attend,” Hall of Fame chairman Peter Partridge said. “This was the best turnout we have ever had.
“It just seems to keep getting bigger and better every year.”
Burak, a 66-year-old Welland resident, has a long and storied career as a rower and rowing coach.
Burak paid tribute to his parents in his speech.
“My father was not athletic but what he brought to us was dedication. He was tough, he was very brave and goal-oriented to reach his goals. He had seven kids and moved around the country and succeeded.
“My mother made sure we knew how to do a front roll, a back roll, headstands, handstands against a wall. She made sure each and every one of us competed in our school track and field events.”
Dykstra-May, a 44-year-old St. Davids resident, was recognized as one of Canada’s top high jumpers.
“Sports have always been part of my life, and will always be, even as an athlete, a soccer mom, a fan, a coach,” she said.
Dykstra told of how she qualified for OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) while at Beacon Christian High School, but had to pay her own way to Sudbury at the time and ended up sleeping on the floor at the only hotel her parents could find.
“Who knew OFSAA was such a big meet?” she said, with a smile.
O’Brien, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 81, was represented by his son, Ellard, Jr., who was proud to pass along his father was once mentioned by Don Cherry on his radio show.
“He mentioned he played hockey with Obie O’Brien and said he was a big guy and he said if he was playing hockey today he’d be playing in the NHL and making about $8 million a year,” he said.
Schenck, a 62-year-old St. Catharines native, was inducted into the builder’s category.
“I could not have done this, first, without the support of my family,” he said. “My biggest booster throughout all of this has been my wife, Kathleen.”
Schenck was also made sure to single out long-time rowing friends Tim Rigby and Ken Campbell.
Verbeek, a 42-year-old Grimsby native who has two Olympic silver medals and one Olympic bronze medal to her credit, joins her former coach, Marty Calder, in the Hall of Fame.
“He beat me to be on the Wall of Fame, so good job Marty,” she laughed. “I am, again, a silver medalist.”
BPSN’s coverage of the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame is brought to you by Peter Partridge of Partridge Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities (www.peterpartridge.com).