BERWICK, NS - It’s a way to honour and celebrate those who have made significant contributions to the club and to the sport of curling – on the ice and behind the scenes.
The Berwick Curling Club is holding its 2019 Wall of Fame induction ceremony at the Larsen Curling Centre in the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick on Jan. 26. The doors open at 6 p.m. with the induction ceremony getting underway at 7 p.m.
The Berwick Curling Club dates back to the 1930s. About five years ago, the club’s executive decided to create the Wall of Fame to honour and formally recognize people or teams that have helped build the club and promote the sport of curling in the community and beyond. This year, the club is inducting Mike and Michelle Larsen, Curt Palmer and Donnie Smith.
Mike and Michelle Larsen
Mike and Michelle Larsen’s involvement with the sport of curling started in 1999. As a newly engaged couple, they each had their own interests and were looking for an activity they could share.
“We really liked each other but didn’t have much in common,” Michelle said.
A discussion between Michelle and Carol Hampsey brought up the idea of trying curling. After a fair amount of consideration, the Larsens decided to enter a team in what was then known as the Industrial League, now the Sunday Night Corporate Rec League.
After receiving some pointers from Allan Bezanson prior to their first game, the couple was off and running. They were quickly hooked on the game and by Christmas of that year had joined the club and were curling four nights a week.
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.
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 was expanded to include new facilities for other groups in town, including the curling club. 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.
His great grandfather Ern and grandfather Howard were among Berwick’s most decorated curlers in their day and both his parents curled, so it could be said that the sport is part of Curt Palmer’s genetic makeup.
When Palmer was 11 years old and attending Berwick School, Gerald Bezanson made a presentation to students promoting the sport of curling. This led to Palmer visiting the curling club to check things out. He recalls being enthralled by the bright lights and colourful rings of the ice sheet. The rest, as they say, is history.
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, Glen 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.
Along with this impressive on-ice resume, Palmer has been involved in the Berwick 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.
Donnie Smith grew up on Orchard Street in Berwick, not far from the curling club. He recalls walking up to Rod Bethune as a young teen and asking if he could help make and maintain ice. Bethune agreed, and so began forty years of ice making.
In the early years, this meant spraying the sand floor with a garden hose. Since that time, Smith has not missed a season of putting the ice in, looking after it all season and then taking it out in the spring. He has been the clubs head ice maker for the past ten years. Smith continues to learn new techniques from fellow ice makers he meets when travelling to curling events.
In Smith’s induction citation, he says that “it was a slow crawl to becoming competitive.” 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 plays the game with passion and enthusiasm and 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.
In addition to a very busy curling schedule and forty years of ice making, Smith has been a member of the club’s board of directors for over fifteen years. He also works quietly, often behind the scenes, as one of the club’s most dedicated volunteers.