Pictou Advocate sports

The Nancy Frasers in our communities


It takes many fabrics to make a quilt. Just ask any quilter and you’ll get that answer loud and clear. I heard that rationale many times.

Likewise, it takes many people to make a champion in sports. The athletes win the medals and get the glory, but coaches, managers, trainers and volunteers have always been there, contributing to the success stories. Those thoughts were on my mind again last week.

On the same day, seven high-profile personalities were featured in the sports section and, in the obituary columns, we read of the death of a woman who quietly, faithfully, made contributions to community activities all her life, never seeking high praise, never expecting her name to be in the limelight.

Yes, we honour our winners, but we should equally honour those who work behind the scenes to the betterment of others.

Let’s look a bit closer.

In sports, as in other aspects of our society, it is good and proper to salute those people who have excelled in their chosen activities. It shouldn’t be any other way. In this case, the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame was announcing its 2016 list of inductees and, as in past years, the seven persons chosen were very deserving to enter the province’s hallowed hall.

This time the door opened for five athletes and two builders.

Waverley kayaker Karen Furneaux’s accomplishments pretty much made her an automatic selection. Being a former member of the hall’s selection committee, I would think she received unanimous selection at the committee table. It’s amazing what she has achieved in her young life. She was in three Olympic Games, won nine world championship medals including two gold, and collected 50 national championships. Five times she was named Nova Scotia’s female athlete of the year.

Shubenacadie rower Tracy Cameron has gold medals from the 2005 and 2010 world championships and a bronze medal from the 2008 Olympics. She also captured three golds among six medals at the  World Cup. Like Furneaux, she had the credentials that should have impressed the entire selection committee.

Rounding out this year’s class were soccer player Ante Jazic of Bedford, who was captain of Team Canada at two World Cup qualifications and spent 16 seasons in professional soccer; baseball player and golfer Leon Carter of River Bourgeois, who was on Canada’s first national baseball team to win a medal on the international level, and who won four provincial men’s amateur titles in golf; the late Simon Gillis, who was an Olympic hammer throw competitor in the Olympics way back in 1904 and 1908; and two Halifax builders, Fred MacGillivray, who helped bring many major events to the province, and David Fry, an outstanding swimming coach for four decades.

Yes, sports people who make headlines like that deserve the honours they get. May it always be that way. But let’s not forget that the sports world, like quilt making, could not be the great and wonderful environment it is without the work of the folks who don’t see their names in headlines but are, nonetheless, a fabric in the overall picture. Nancy Fraser was one of those.

To my knowledge, the life-long New Glasgow woman never won major awards in athletic circles. But some of the details in her obituary, reporting her death in the palliative care unit at the Aberdeen Hospital, explained how she spent so much of her time improving conditions for others.

In my years in New Glasgow, I knew Nancy and her sister Patsy. Nancy was two years younger than myself, Patsy three years younger. They took the same education path as me, attending the Brown and Acadia Street schools before going on to graduate from New Glasgow High.

Nancy, in her graduation year, 1957-58, was a forward on the school’s soccer team, a teammate of sister Patsy, a teammate of my sister Barbara. It was a year before the green and white won a provincial title, but the club went undefeated until losing the championship match by one goal.

That wasn’t Nancy’s only activity. She was a member of the glee club and Allied Youth, and she was a cheerleader. She loved all sports, her yearbook profile said.
But, as her obituary explained, she enjoyed her summers at the family cottage in Chance Harbour, where she started “a well-known and well-respected” swimming program. Something for others.

She reached the level of distinction with the Royal Life Saving Society and she continued swimming in recent years at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
There was another involvement in sports, a significant one for sure. The obit tells of her being a founding member of the Women Alike dragon boat team, which has been such a wonderful outlet for cancer survivors. It led to the very successful Race on the River festival held on the East River.

As for Nancy, she was also involved with Institute of Cultural Affairs International for a decade and a half, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Pictou County, and a former board member of the Pictou County Health Authority. It goes without saying that perhaps her biggest contribution of all was her long service, in various capacities, at Trinity United Church in New Glasgow.

Nancy Fraser’s name obviously will never appear on the induction list at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, but that’s not the point. She has been a wonderful example of what volunteers are all about, what it is to step forward to do many of the little things behind the scenes.

We never forget the players who score the goals, win the races and capture the medals. That’s part of being interested in athletics of all types, and loving an association with such successful people.

But, I suggest wholeheartedly, we should also remember the Nancy Frasers in our communities and, before it’s too late, take time to say thank you for being there in the trenches.

They’re important, too.

Leave a Reply