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Smith, Larsens, Palmer honoured with Berwick Curling Club Wall of Fame inductions


All recognized for significant contributions on ice, behind scenes

BERWICK, NS - It’s an honour that recognizes the contributions of members who helped make the Berwick Curling Club what it is today.

The club held its sixth annual Wall of Fame induction ceremony, the first at its new facility at the Kings Mutual Century Centre, on Jan. 26. Inductees included Donnie Smith, Mike and Michelle Larsen and Curt Palmer. Smith wasn’t on hand for the ceremony because of a curling commitment at the Ship Hector Bonspiel.

Wall of Fame committee chairman and induction ceremony emcee Greg Hubbert said the induction ceremony is a way to look back as well as forward.

“We’re honouring people for their incredible contributions to make this club what it is,” Hubbert said. “Most of our inductees didn’t just excel on the ice, some of them in fact never stepped on the ice.”

He said many made contributions as club presidents, board members, ice makers, through raising money and other volunteer efforts.

Donnie Smith

Mary Ellen Lonergan read Smith’s induction citation in his absence. Smith will be honoured by the club at league curling after he returns from the Ship Hector Bonspiel.

An accomplished curler, Smith has been making ice for the club for 40 seasons and has been its head ice maker for the past decade. He has served on the club’s board for more than 15 years.

“He plays with passion and enthusiasm,” Lonergan said. “He’s certainly one of our club’s most dedicated volunteers and the Berwick Curling Club is a little better place for all of us because of his tremendous contribution.”

She said his success on and off the ice puts Smith in a class of his own. If he were on hand to offer an acceptance speech, Lonergan said she is sure he would thank all the people who helped get him where he is today. He wanted her to thank everybody who played a role in establishing their new four-sheet facility, the Larsen Curling Centre.

Back when Bill Hennigar arrived in Berwick, he asked Smith to curl with himself, Dave Lonergan and Bob McKinnon. This was the beginning of a thirteen-year run as a competitive curling team which finished in the final four of the Nova Scotia Tankard three times, never quite reaching the top.

Smith also curled for six years with Doug MacKenzie, Stuart McLean and George Xedos. This team won four Atlantic Curling Tour events and over $10,000 in one year. In addition, Smith has played on teams that won two Nova Scotia Intermediate titles, the Greenwood Closing, the Ship Hector bonspiel and many other local and provincial bonspiels.

Smith continues to curl at a very high level. He and his team mates - Kevin Saccarty, Doug Bryant and Kevin Lonergan - travel the province to compete throughout the curling season.

Mike and Michelle Larsen

In an acceptance speech, Michelle Larsen said the club was a place where she and husband Mike felt very welcomed. She said that after moving to Berwick, walking through the door was the first time she felt a strong sense of community. It’s the people that make the club what it is.

Michelle said “there’s something in the water” in Berwick that makes its people achieve much more than anyone expects as a community. Others are “astonished, perplexed and honestly awed” by what has been accomplished collectively through the building of the Kings Mutual Century Centre.

She said the secret is the town’s volunteers. The generations that came before were hard workers who wanted to give something back and today’s community members “stand on the shoulders of giants” when it comes to building on that legacy.

Mike Larsen said they are proud to be part of the club and to call Berwick home. This is why he and Michelle are honoured to be inducted onto the Wall of Fame.

This curling season, the first in the club’s new facility, has been a great one. Adult membership is up 50 per cent over last season, the junior program has more than doubled and the Sunday night corporate rec league has nearly doubled.

Mike, who is club president, said the Learn to Curl program could potentially bring 80 new players through the doors this season. One-day spiels have sold out a month in advance and there’s already a waiting list for the Apple Spiel, which is still six weeks away.

“It’s exhilarating, it’s exciting, it’s exhausting for some people, but that’s okay,” Mike said. “Because of the quality of the people we have in this club, we know we are well positioned to handle whatever comes our way.”

As curlers, Mike and Michelle both distinguished themselves at the club level, curling in numerous bonspiels and in numerous clubs around the province, and have both tasted success at the provincial level: Mike as a member of a team that played in the Nova Scotia Tankard in 2009 and Michelle as a member of the Provincial Women’s Club Championship team (with Leta Totten, Mary Ellen Lonergan and Alyson Burgess) in 2008.

Curt Palmer

Just prior to his induction, Palmer went to the ice surface and threw what was one of his great grandfather Ern’s century-old curling stones.

“I’ve never thrown it,” Palmer said. “It’s been in my basement for thirty years.”

Hubbert had asked Palmer if he would throw the rock. Hubbert said he thought it would be a fitting gesture.

Palmer said he counts himself among the lucky because he grew up in Berwick and later returned to the town.

“This community and the district surrounding this community is very special to me and it’s been very kind to me,” Palmer said.

When he was beginning to curl, he always felt welcome. Club members were very accommodating, allowing him to spare when he was in his mid-teens or younger. He said he knew when there was free ice time and he often visited the club to throw rocks. That was an opportunity that wasn’t available in other places, including Halifax.

In presenting Palmer’s induction citation, former teammate Glenn Josephson said Palmer is one of Berwick’s great athletes. He said his longevity is amazing and he’s still active at the senior and masters levels. He said Palmer is the most competitive guy he’s ever played with or against.

After graduating from Dalhousie Law School in 1981, Palmer started his professional career in New Germany. Living in Bridgewater, he immediately joined the curling club and met a group of men that would later become one of Nova Scotia’s most successful and decorated curling teams.

The team of Brian Refuse, Glenn Josephson, Dave Slauenwhite and Berwick’s Palmer curled together for 26 years. This incredible foursome was two-time Tankard Champions, four-time runners-up and, in 2008, won the Provincial Seniors as well as the Tankard. The team won bronze at the National Senior Curling Championship that year.

In 2007, Palmer’s Bridgewater teammates chose to focus on the Seniors event. Palmer, not yet of age, joined the Mark Kehoe team from Windsor and went on to win a third Nova Scotia Tankard and Briar appearance.

Palmer and a variety of teammates have won four Western County Championships, nine Greenwood Closing titles and many other local and regional bonspiels.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

Did you know?

President Mike Larsen introduced a new plaque at the Larsen Curling Centre as part of the Wall of Fame evening. It recognizes the many contributions made through the club’s “Raise the Rings” fundraising campaign and through a sponsorship campaign held to purchase new rocks for the centre. More than $120,000 was raised through these two initiatives.

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