Numerous school administrators, coaches, players, and team captains were on hand to celebrate a 60-year historical tribute to those who provided educational opportunity through their classroom of sport.  It was explained that the names of head senior team football coaches on the wall plaque represented a recognition of effort by everyone contributing to the education of student athletes at RCBHS and FESS.

Attending the banquet were Lynn Christie (Captain of the Blue Devils 1962 SOSSA Zone champions), Doug Reid (Captain of the undefeated Falcons 1963 SOSSA Zone champions, also inducted that evening), Peter Ruch and Bob McClary (Co-Captains of the Falcons 1964 SOSSA Zone champions), Jim McDonald (Captain of the Blue Devils undefeated 1966 SOSSA Zone champions), and Tim Burke (Captain of the undefeated 1970 Blue Devils Zone champions).  Speaking on behalf of the nominators was John Millington who played on the 1962 Blue Devil SOSSA championship squad and the 1963 undefeated Falcon SOSSA championship team.

Larry Graber, President of the Fort Erie Kinsmen and master of ceremonies, announced the names of the 21 head football coaches being inducted to the Fort Erie Sports Wall of Fame and the schools they represented. Framed collages (identical to the wall induction plaque) were provided to coaches whose team captains were pictured receiving the Bobby Fox Award. All other coaches were presented leather-bound certificates of tribute.

John Albinson, RCBHS
Robert Borgersen, FESS
Don Burton, FESS
Brian Chiki, FESS
Paul Fell, FESS
Lucien Gerritsen, FESS
Pat Hudak, RCBHS
Mike Keenan, FESS
Neil MacVicar, FESS
Jim Manske, RCBHS
Don McKenzie, FESS
Ken Mason, FESS
Al Moffat, FESS
Calvin Nigh, RCBHS & FESS 
Rod Oakes, FESS

Dave Osborne, FESS
Jay Perchaluk, FESS
Norm Pring, FESS
Terry Rigsby, FESS
Larry Sirianni, FESS
  Cyril Wilkinson, RCBHS

Peter Ruch and John Millington were introduced to provide information regarding the research of outstanding athletic accomplishment behind the non-traditional, 60-year historical tribute that included all coaches.

The Bobby Fox Award was chosen as the common theme for outstanding athletic success. This trophy is among the oldest and most prestigious high school awards in Ontario.  It is presented annually to the best high school football team in southern Ontario.  Millington cited that during the only decade when both RCBHS and FESS were eligible to compete for the coveted prize, the two Bertie township high schools combined captured the award and the zone championship 7 times.  Millington, a retired teacher, coach, athletic director and instructor of student teachers at The University of Michigan, stressed that interscholastic opportunities are vital to learning throughout one’s high school education.  “The entire world learns through sport,” he quoted.  Interscholastic activities keep students interested in school, force them to do their best under challenging conditions, and prepare them for real life endeavors after graduation. Our coaches provide that opportunity.

Millington referred to the induction as a superb opportunity to celebrate the legacy of outstanding individuals who have inspired all of us. It is also an opportunity to record our community’s history.  He then read the following tribute to the coaches from RCBHS and FESS represented in the 2014 nomination:

A question was once asked of a wise old professor, “What makes an outstanding high school coach?”

The professor answered, “To be an outstanding high school coach, one must first be an outstanding teacher. To be an outstanding teacher, one must never lose focus of the intended result for the student.  Along the way, the teacher must always demonstrate passion, commitment, caring, inspiration, knowledge of the past, courage, and faith to encounter the future with a determination to make the right things happen in the lives of others.  Never forget that the virtues of inclusion and teamwork are essential for a productive society.”     (author unknown)

The Bobby Fox Award was first presented in 1958 and named after Bob Fox by his Thunderbird teammates for his indomitable spirit on the field of competition and in life.  Fox, an electrifying young athlete, suffered a football ending injury that year. Since then, Mr. Fox has become the face of Zone 3 football. He has returned annually for more than 5 decades to present the award to the best high school football team in Ontario’s premier zone.    (see nomination)

Peter Ruch presented Bob Fox with a Heisman figurine. That figurine was broken-off from the Bobby Fox Award and had mysteriously disappeared half a century earlier in 1964 while Fox was presenting the trophy to Falcon Captain Ruch after the championship game that year. The missing figurine remained in Ruch’s possession for the next 50 years.

Mr. Fox, the keynote speaker, stressed the power of positive thinking. “There are no losers. There are only winners in high school interscholastic activities.” Fox also stressed the importance of inclusion over exclusion. “You can’t teach them if you don’t have them!”  Mr. Fox went on to mention that these coach/educators spend countless hours after school throughout the year teaching young athletes the value associated with their high school experiences.  “These coaches are not compensated,” he said.  “They do it because they understand the power of education, the worthiness of their mission, and they believe in the carry-over effect from interscholastic opportunities into one’s life.”

Mr. Fox presented the induction wall plaque to Cyril Wilkinson (RCBHS) representing the Bertie high school coaches present.  Coach Wilkinson was the oldest coach in attendance.  He is considered the “Father of Blue Devil football.”  Wilkinson was the first of the Bertie township high school coaches to be presented the Bobby Fox Award by Bobby Fox in 1962.  Coach Wilkinson is the only coach ever to have teams capture Zone 3 football championships at both the “Senior B” (1959) and the “Senior A” (1962) levels, and he did it at the smallest school in the province able to field a football team.  RCBHS in those days did not sponsor a grade 13. Yet, Wilkinson’s teams, always younger, undersized and under-funded achieved the ultimate goals in high school football at Ridgeway. Wilkinson, also a recipient of the Pete Beach Award from the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations, is remembered by his players for inspiring them to accomplish goals that many thought too difficult or impossible. 

Coach Wilkinson accepted the induction wall plaque on behalf of all educators and coaches who were nominated as a “team of builders.”  As a team, these coaches and their assistants over a 60-year period built champions on the field of competition and they educated students to become productive citizens entering a competitive, diverse, and ever-changing world. Many of these coaches’ student athletes today are now leaders giving back to their schools and their communities. This 60-year historical tribute is also meant to be a “Thank You” to all educators who taught the students of RCBHS and FESS.

Special appreciation was expressed to Cathy Dennahower and the wall selection committee, the Fort Erie Kinsmen, the town of Fort Erie, and to all local businesses sponsoring banquet tables for the annual induction event.

Captured Moments from the Evening

Congratulations to one and all.
Many thanks for their dedication and spirit to the fine art of education.