Sheets of ice, the unique “thunk” of rocks making contact, and shouts of “Hurray, hard” probably were the last thing on Tom Fry’s mind the moment he heard he’d been named the Canadian Curling Association’s Volunteer of the Year.
“I was totally surprised when I heard. I was on the golf course in Orlando when I got the phone call,” Fry smiled during an interview here Friday as he recalled the moment from two weeks ago.
“It was a real shocker at that point. I had no idea the club had nominated me,” he added. “I certainly want to thank all those that were involved in the nomination. It’s a great tribute.
“I can’t believe it,” remarked Fry, shaking his head.
Fry left for Hamilton today in order to officially receive the prestigious award during the finals of the Tim Hortons Brier this weekend at Copps Coliseum. The annual Canadian men’s curling championship is sanctioned by the CCA.
“It’s going to be a wonderful experience,” said Fry. “They told me they’re giving us the VIP treatment the whole time we’re [in Hamilton]. It’s going to be an awesome experience.”
Fry said he hasn’t been told exactly when he’ll be receiving the award, other than it would be sometime between the third and fourth ends of either the Page 1 vs. 2 game on Friday night, the semi-final on Saturday afternoon, or the final on Sunday afternoon.
Fry traced his work at the local curling club back to 1974, when he first moved to Fort Frances from Thunder Bay.
“I knew a few of the guys on the executive and they proceeded to invite me to an executive party that fall,” he recalled. “And from that point on, I’ve had something or other to do with the executive of the curling club.”
Fry noted he’s been involved in several major events at the curling club here over the past three decades.
“Starting right from the beginning, I was on the executive, but the first big project was to get the Little Amik cashspiel going with Peter Jensen. Of course, that had 15 years of success until the old club was closed,” he noted.
“There was a couple of provincial playdowns I’ve been involved with, the most recent being the Scott last year. That’s primarily where the award comes from,” added Fry.
He explained the CCA’s Volunteer of the Year Award is not so much a lifetime achievement award as recognition for a single outstanding year—in this case, 2006 when the Fort Frances Curling Club hosted the 25th-annual Ontario Scott Tournament of Hearts.
Fry felt the Scott, which was organized here by himself, Rob Sinclair, and a core group of about 25 other people, was a key moment in the history of the local club.
“We were elated with the way [the Scott] turned out,” he remarked. “In terms of the legacy for the club, we had a number of residuals that carried over, like our in-house monitoring system, new measuring devices, a club website, and 10 sets of bleachers.
“Plus we made a substantial profit,” added Fry. “From what I was able to discern, we were the most profitable provincial Scott Tournament of Hearts up to that point.”
Aside from coaching the boys’ high school and Bantam teams, and teaching novice and intermediate clinics, Fry also was involved in getting Guy Hemmings to stop here on his “Rockin’ the House Tour” late last year.
Still other events included a Grey Cup Skins bonspiel, a “Home for the Holidays ’spiel,” a junior family bonspiel, and a fundraising bonspiel to help purchase a CT scan machine for the local hospital.
Fort Frances Curling Club president Maureen Thomson, who submitted Fry’s nomination to the CCA, said there was no question he is deserving of the award.
“We’re quite excited. It’s quite an honour—he’s been picked from all of Canada,” she enthused Monday.
“I talked to Danny Lamoureux [the CCA’s manager of curling club development], who told me Tom was heads above the other nominees, and wondered if Tom even had a life,” laughed Thomson.
She noted Fry has done so much for the club, it was hard to try and keep his nomination application to 750 words.
“I kept eliminating and eliminating, and it was still over the limit. There’s always some idea he’s coming up with,” remarked Thomson. “He never says never.”
She noted the club gave Fry an honourary lifetime membership last spring, and that this national recognition “is kind of an added bonus on top of that.”
“It really goes to show you can’t do anything without volunteers,” said Thomson. “And it’s not just Tom. We have an extremely dedicated bunch of volunteers at the club.
“We can’t be running the club without them.”
Fry said that while he’s thrilled to get the award after so many years of helping out at the Fort Frances Curling Club, he has no intention of hanging up his volunteer hat anytime soon.
“I’m pretty much semi-retired now, so I’ve got lots of time to devote to it,” he remarked. “I love the sport. I love the people involved in the sport.
“Our club is a very proactive club,” he added. “The members are always willing to help, so I never have any problem getting people to go on committees and try to get the things done that we’ve got to do.”