Sports

Norfolk sports hall adds eight inductees

By Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor

A dinner celebrating the latest inductees into the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition was held Saturday at the Delhi Hungarian Hall. In the photo are Jill Cleaver (front, left), representing Jim Cleaver; Ashley Haskett; Jason Gordy (back, left); Don Boyd, representing Gordon Boyd; Charlie Haviland; Jim MacDonald and Paul MacDonald, representing the MacDonald family; and Bryan Zilkey. Missing is Ron Kowalsky. MICHELLE RUBY/Postmedia News

A dinner celebrating the latest inductees into the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition was held Saturday at the Delhi Hungarian Hall. In the photo are Jill Cleaver (front, left), representing Jim Cleaver; Ashley Haskett; Jason Gordy (back, left); Don Boyd, representing Gordon Boyd; Charlie Haviland; Jim MacDonald and Paul MacDonald, representing the MacDonald family; and Bryan Zilkey. Missing is Ron Kowalsky. MICHELLE RUBY/Postmedia News

DELHI, ON - 

Seven outstanding individuals and a family who have contributed to sports history in Norfolk County were inducted on Saturday into the Sports Hall of Recognition.

At a dinner held at the Delhi Hungarian Hall, tribute was paid to Jim Cleaver, Jason Gordy, Ashley Haskett, Ron Kowalsky, Gordon Boyd, Charlie Haviland, the MacDonald family and Bryan Zilkey.

“The Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition committee is thrilled to recognize eight outstanding individuals who have brought honour to themselves, to their families, and to Norfolk County,” said Mark Boerkamp, committee chairman.

“Their dedication to excellence is exemplary and their achievements have impacted Norfolk and beyond.”

The committee, which has been adding to its list of inductees since 1994, recognizes not just individuals, but teams and, for the first time this year, a family. Coaches and other contributors to local sports have been honoured.

Another first this year is the induction of two local Special Olympians.

“It’s quite an eclectic group,” said Boerkamp.

He said the committee receives nominations from the public for potential inductees into the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition. Through a point system, inductees are selected by the committee.

Each inductee receives plaque, a medal and a DVD copy of an interview done with themselves or their representative.

A permanent plaque is installed in the sports hall of recognition at the Simcoe Recreation Centre, and banners honouring the most recent inductees hang outside the hall for two years.

“It’s important to recognize them,” said Boerkamp. “There are many who don’t know what these people have done. They are both champions and mentors.”

Norfolk Mayor Charlie Luke said the induction ceremony marks the important occasion when “we formally recognize the participation, dedication and contribution of those who embrace an active and healthy lifestyle, encourage participation in sport, have achieved a personal best in their chosen endeavour and have helped put Norfolk County on the map.”

Here are the 2015 inductees:

• Jim Cleaver – The late Jim “Plucker” Cleaver earned his nickname at Memorial ballpark in Simcoe. He earned his reputation at the Simcoe Curling Club. Cleaver was a member of Simcoe Curling Club for about 30 years and served as director and vice president. He dominated the local curling scene from 1958 to 1983. During that time he competed provincially in Buffalo, as well as locally. He travelled extensively throughout Ontario with the Horace Greenfield rink, winning many bonspiels and earning a reputation one of the best rinks in Ontario. Cleaver, a successful apple grower and innovator, was also a baseball coach.

• Jason Gordy – After more than 20 years of involvement in Special Olympics, Gordy was recognized in 2015 as a nominee for the Dr. Frank Hayden National Special Olympics Athlete Lifetime Achievement Award. That same year he was the recipient of the Ontario Special Olympics Athlete Lifetime Achievement Award. Gordy has won medals of all colour in swimming, track and field, softball, and five-pin bowling. He also competed in floor hockey at the provincial level. In 2012, Gordy was inducted into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame as Ontario Special Olympics Male Athlete of the Year.

• Ashley Haskett – Haskett has successfully competed in floor hockey, bowling, darts and baseball but her most feted accomplishments have been through her great success in swimming. Her ability and interest in swimming have led her through local, provincial, national and world competitions. She was the first person from the Norfolk area to attend the World Games (2007) in China for Special Olympics where she competed in swimming. She is the recipient of a Citizenship Award, Outstanding Student Award, an MPP award, and a Community Living Award.

• Ron Kowalsky – Growing up with 10 siblings in the 1950s, the Simcoe native gained county-wide exposure as the starting catcher for the town’s first-ever Ontario Amateur Softball Association squirt championship team in 1958. The pint-sized backstop scored the winning run in the team’s final contest. After a stint at an Oakville newspaper, Kowalsky returned home to captain the Simcoe Reformer sports pages, becoming the go-to source for sports information in southwestern Ontario. His media career spanned from 1968 to 1995. He was the driving force behind the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition.

The 2016 inductees are:

• Gordon Boyd - In more than two decades as a coach and volunteer, Boyd – who grew up between Walsingham and Langton – helped the Langton Minor Baseball Association become one of the premier programs in the province. Born in 1897, Boyd’s teams captured at least 10 Ontario Baseball Association titles. Championship photos hanging in his son Don’s house span the years of 1948 to 1967, just three years before his death. Boyd, who lost his right arm in a gun accident at age seven, had to learn to do everything left-handed. He became so good with his left hand that infielding drills prior to games became second nature.

• Charlie Haviland – The Wilsonville native is recognized within the North American drag racing community as an innovator, pioneer and leader. Growing up, Haviland was able to hone his skills on a paved concession near his family’s farm. From 1955 to 1969 he competed at a number of U.S. tracks. In 1968, he was the class champion and set a new NHRA national record in the AA/Altered class. He is known as the first racer to use a supercharging Cadillac motor and hemi power. He was inducted into the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.

• MacDonald Family – In the home of Simcoe’s John and Florence MacDonald, baseball was far more than a game, it was a way of life. The couple helped form the South Neighbourhood Club, which became the Simcoe Minor Baseball Association. It’s estimated that the coaching, volunteer work, and other help provided by the MacDonalds, not to mention their children and grandchildren, has positively affected about 150 Simcoe-area squads.

• Bryan Zilkey – Zilkey spent years involved with both Simcoe Minor Baseball and Hockey, ascending to the third vice president of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association. His efforts in the ’80s and early ’90s were rewarded with a plethora of on-ice triumph. “We had OMHA championship teams while I was running hockey in Simcoe and on the OMHA executive,” he said. “We had championship teams all the way up. He accompanied a now legendary Simcoe squad coached by Brian Hoover and Bob Kowalsky on a tour of Sweden. Zilkey is also a charter member of the Simcoe Curling Club.