From left to right: David Lonergan, Mary-Ellen Lonergan, Hartly MacArthur, Curt Palmer, Donnie Smith, Mike Lasen, Michelle Larsen
Curt Palmer comes from a curling family. His great grandfather Ern and his grandfather
Howard were two of Berwick’s most decorated curlers in their day. His parents, Dot and
Paul also curled, so having an interest in the sport was clearly in his genetic make up.
When Curt was eleven years old and attending Berwick School, Gerald Bezanson made
a presentation to the students promoting the sport of curling. It was this presentation
that caused Curt to walk into the club and check things out. He recalls being enthralled
by the bright lights and colourful rings of the ice sheet. And……the rest as they say is
Curt became at that early age, a true rink rat. He simply couldn't stay away. He would
regularly show up at the club, hoping that some team would be short a player so that he
could play. He was curling several games a week. It was during this time that Curt
recalls being taken aside by Dave Miller and introduced to the tuck delivery. His shot
making percentage improved immediately and he continues to use this delivery today.
(He does admit however that his tuck isn’t quite as much of a tuck as it was in his
younger days.) At this time Curt took part in the junior curling program, coached by Ray
Cook. Ray was a very good coach and taught Curt the basics including curling
strategies. During these early days of competitive curling with the juniors, Curt has
clear memories of “getting thrashed” at bonspiels. By the time he and his team had
reached high school, his was the team to beat, winning on a regular basis.
After graduating from Dalhousie Law School in 1981, Curt 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 Scotias most successful
and decorated curling teams. The team of Brian Refuse, Glen Josephson, Dave
Slauenwhite and Berwicks Curt Palmer curled together for a total of 26 years. This
incredible foursome were two time Tankard Champions, four time runners-up and in
2008 won the Provincial Seniors as well as the Tankard, the only men’s curling team in
Canadian curling history to do so. The team won a bronze at the National Senior Curling
Championship that year.
In 2007 Curt’s Bridgewater teammates chose to focus on the Seniors event. Curt, not
yet of age joined the Mark Kehoe team from Windsor and went on to win a third Nova
Scotia Tankard and Briar appearance.
In addition, Curt and a variety of teammates have won four Western County
Championships, ten Greenwood Closing titles and many other local and regional
bonspiels, including the Quebec International.
Along with this impressive on ice resume, Curt has been involved in our club as a
volunteer. He has served as club president in the past and currently is a member of the
Board of Directors. He was also part of the transition team that worked for a number of
years in a planning capacity for the building of the Larsen Curling Centre.
Through all of this, Curt has exemplified the concept of the gentleman athlete. He is in
fact an example for all of us to follow both young and old on and off the ice. It is with
great pleasure that the Berwick Curling Club induct Curt Palmer into our Wall of Fame.
Mike & Michelle Larsen
In the world of sport, there are many examples of organizations that have been transformed by a change in leadership. Such is the case with the Berwick Curling Club, under the leadership of Mike and Michelle Larsen.
Their involvement with the sport of curling started in 1999. As a newly engaged couple they each had their own separate interests and were looking for an activity that they could share. As Michelle remarked, “We really liked each other but didn’t have much in common.” A discussion between Michelle and Carol Hampsey brought up the idea to try curling, and after a fair amount of consideration, they decided to enter a team in the Sunday Night Corporate Rec League, which was known as the Industrial League back then, to give it a try. The other members of the team were Michelle’s brother, Mike Trombley, and Jim Franey, Mike’s Father-in-Law. Given that only Jim had ever set foot on a curling rink before, the Larsen’s asked Allan Bezanson if he would come up the first night and give them some pointers before their first game. After a five minute lesson, they were off and running…and quickly hooked on the game of curling. By Christmas of that same year, they had joined the Club and started curling Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday nights, in addition to Sundays.
As luck would have it, one of their first skips was Brian Bethune. Brian was a talented curler and a capable coach. He instructed the Larsen’s on the finer points of the game, and in particular on curling etiquette. He was a superb mentor. During that first season, they happened to be at the Club one Wednesday night when Bob Kervin and Jamie Schofield were short players for their Wednesday night game. The Larsen’s filled in that evening, and began what was a 7-year run as a very successful team in the Wednesday night league. As curlers, Mike and Michelle have 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.
Toward the end of their first season, Michelle was recruited by Club President George Boyd to join the Board of Directors as its Secretary. She has been on the Executive almost continuously since then. Michelle served as Vice-President for Brian Bethune for two years, before serving her own two year term as President. Mike then took over for his first term as President, serving for the two years after Michelle.
During these initial years, the dream of a new recreational facility for Berwick was just taking shape. Initially, the project was conceived to replace the aging Berwick Arena, but the project was then expanded to include new facilities for other groups in Town, including the Curling Club.
Fundraising was in full swing, and around 2001, Bob Best and George Moody paid Karl and Mike Larsen a visit to pitch them on the idea of becoming a donor toward the project. Mike’s Grandfather, Henry Larsen, had immigrated to Canada, moved to Berwick, and in 1939, started what would become Larsen Packers. In later years, both Karl and Mike continued to run the business, and both commented that the Town of Berwick had always been very good to their family. It was because of this long standing support that the Larsen family proposed to donate $100,000 toward construction, in exchange for the naming rights to the new curling arena. Bob and George wasted no time in agreeing to this deal.
It was during Mike’s presidency that the Club signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Community Association to move ahead with phase 2 construction of the Kings Mutual Century Centre, which would include a new home for the Berwick Curling Club.
This was a difficult time for our Club. A number of members believed that leaving the old Club would be a mistake, that there was too much uncertainly around future costs in a new building to make the move. Mike and the Board of Directors decided to try and answer the cost question a different way. They initiated an aging building audit, which proved that staying put would be much more costly in the long run than partnering with the Community Association and building new.
During the next few years, both Mike and Michelle stepped back from the active club leadership to pursue educational goals. During this time, a transition team was put in place to carry on the work of planning and preparing for a new Club. As the plans moved forward, and the project came closer to reality, the Board of Directors felt that they needed Mike and Michelle back at the helm to lead the Club through the planning, fundraising, and building process. Greg Hubbert, who was on the Board at the time, was the head of the nominating committee, and tasked with pitching them on the idea of coming back to the Executive. Greg decided to make his approach at a time when he may (or may not) have known he would have a captive audience…he called 30 minutes before the kickoff of the Super Bowl and asked if one or the other would consider re- offering for President. Mike and Michelle debated who it would be for the next few days, and finally decided that perhaps offering as Co-Presidents would be an easier solution, which was quickly accepted.
The initial weeks of their second terms had many challenges. The Club was facing issues that many Clubs in the Province were facing…dwindling membership and strained finances. Mike recalls an early conversation he had with Brad Schurman, who was Club Treasurer at the time. Brad had bills to pay, but not enough money in the bank to cover them…and it was only May, so curling season was months away. Mike and Michelle quickly took action. A fundraising supper was organized at the Lions Hall, with the help of several Club members, and $10,000 was raised. As Mike put it, “that gave us a bit of air in our lungs, so we could breathe again. When people asked how the Club would fill 4 sheets of ice when it couldn’t fill 3, the Larsen’s response was, “this is going to happen, so what do we need to do to make it so?” That season, Michelle introduced the Learn to Curl program to our Club. This program has since added many new members, and continues to do so today under the committed direction of Claude LeBlanc and a host of dedicated volunteer coaches. Michelle also committed to re-energizing the Corporate Rec League on Sunday nights, and has since added several new teams after a persistent recruitment campaign.
As fate would have it, Mike found an opportunity to work in Berwick shortly after the funding announcement for Phase 2 construction was made. Once ground was broken, Mike was onsite on a daily basis (sometimes multiple times depending on the issues that came up), problem solving, and helping to keep the project on target. Both Mike and Michelle, as well as others, attended countless meetings with architects, contractors, and local politicians throughout the process. Not wanting to put old curling rocks in a new facility, they initiated a rock sponsorship campaign that ensured that the costs of 4 new sets of rocks were covered. And finally, to ensure that the Club had the proper finishing touches, the Larsen family donated an additional $50,000 to the Club.
Possibly the biggest contribution that Mike and Michelle have made to our Club is how they have inspired so many others to step up and get involved. When others witnessed their energy, passion, and effort, they jumped in with enthusiasm and got involved as well. At this time our Club is blessed with an amazing cast of volunteers who work extremely hard to make our club one of the best. This is in no small way a credit to the leadership, energy, and dedication of Mike and Michelle Larsen.
It is with great pleasure that we honour their contributions to our Club by inducting them into our Wall of Fame.
Donnie grew up on Orchard Street in Berwick, not far from the curling club. This allowed him to simply walk to the club and get involved. He recalls walking up to Rod Bethune as a young teen and asking if he could help make and maintain ice. Rod agreed, and so began forty years of ice making.
In the early years, this meant spraying the sand floor with a garden hose. Donnie has not missed a season since that time of putting the ice in, looking after it all season and then taking it out in the spring. Currently, he has been the clubs head ice maker for the past ten years. He continues to learn new techniques from fellow ice makers that he meets when travelling to curling events.
As a teenager Donnie was spending four nights a week at the club, often playing two games if some team needed an extra. During these years he was also a volunteer bartender.
In Donnies own words “it was a slow crawl to becoming competitive.” When Bill Hennigar arrived in Berwick, he asked Donnie 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 NS Tankard three times, never quite reaching the top. Donnie 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, he has played on teams that won two NS Intermediate titles, as well as the Greenwood Closing, the Ship Hector bonspiel and many other local and provincial bonspiels.
In 2007 when the Mark Kehoe rink from Windsor won the Tankard, they asked Donnie to join them as a fifth player to compete in the Briar. During the Briar competition in Hamilton, Ontario his team mates voted to take turns sitting out so Donnie could play in two games.
One of the responsibilities of the fifth was to carry the brooms from the hotel to the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. Somehow Donnie misplaced his armload of brooms while in transit and some scrambling in search of brooms ensued. As well, the fifth was required to come onto the ice during a team time out. Donnie had been invited to the bar by the coach of the Kevin Martin team during the Nova Scotia -Alberta match and had to sprint to the ice when Kehoe called a time out.
At present, Donnie continues to curl at a very high level. His team mates: Kevin Saccary, Doug Bryant and Kevin Lonergan travel the province to compete through the curling season.
In addition to a very busy curling schedule and forty years of ice making, Donnie has been a member of the board of directors for over fifteen years. He plays the game with passion and enthusiasm. He also works quietly and often behind the scenes as one of our clubs most dedicated volunteers.
The Berwick Curling Club is a better place for all of us because of the tremendous contribution that Donnie has made over the past forty years. His on ice success and his off ice involvement put him in a class of his own.
It is with great pleasure that we induct Donnie Smith into the Berwick Curling Club Wall of Fame.