By Martin Cleary
During their day, they were remarkable in their sports fields for many reasons.
Bill Fraser made his mark as a championship-winning basketball coach at Lisgar Collegiate Institute.
When the football program started at St. Francis Xavier University almost 70 years ago, Peter Lesaux was the first quarterback for the Blue and White.
Marguerite Wagner, a familiar face at the former Rideau Tennis and Squash Club, was a champion tennis player in the National Capital Tennis Association.
A gifted, multi-sport athlete, Ric Myles was a talented fullback and linebacker for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees in the 1960s.
During the last 40 days, they have all passed away, making it an opportune time to reflect on their athletic careers and put the spotlight on them once again, if only briefly.
Here are some snapshots from their contributions to the Ottawa sports landscape.
BILL FRASER, 80th year
Lisgar Collegiate Institute was a second home for Bill Fraser.
He was a student-athlete at the downtown Ottawa high school from 1956-61 and four years later joined the teaching-coaching staff. He became one of the pillars of Lisgar on both accounts, retiring in 1999.
During his four decades teaching at the school, he served as head of the English department and was one of the most successful coaches in the former Ottawa Board of Education (now Ottawa-Carleton District School Board).
When school was dismissed, basketball was Fraser’s go-to sport, although he also was on the Lords’ coaching staffs in football and track and field.
After coaching his first-ever basketball game on short notice and no knowledge of the game, he went on to guide Lisgar teams to 17 Ottawa board championships – seven in boys’ junior, five in girls’ junior and five in girls’ senior.
But winning wasn’t the true essence behind accepting, advancing and appreciating his volunteer roles at the city’s oldest school, which also extended into community ball and a brief stint with the Carleton University Ravens men’s team.
As a Lisgar coach, he started from scratch and learned the drills and finer points from master coaches like Pat O’Brien, John Scobie and Larry Hale. So, when he worked with his young student-athletes, he understood what they were experiencing.
Wendy Bruce was one of those players.
A Grade 12 student, she signed up for the girls’ senior tryouts in 1982. Her skills weren’t going to put her on the starting five, but she knew she could contribute, despite being cut from the junior team two years previous by a different coach.
Bruce thought she might not make the team for one reason. She was hearing impaired.
“I showed my skills and I was a good team member, even (though) I was a third-string player,” Bruce wrote in a 2018 email to High Achievers. “I was surprised (to make the team) because I thought I won’t make it again due to communication barriers … when they saw me as a deaf person.”
But Fraser was well ahead of his time, when it came to inclusivity.
“He took an extra mile for me by moving his lips more so I (could) comprehend what he was saying, or (used) more hand gestures,” she added. “I asked Bill for more explanations or (he) showed me on the white board, if I did not follow him. He treated me the same as others.”
Fraser substituted Bruce when the game called for it.
“She was happy to get on the floor,” he explained. “When we were way up or way out (of a game), that was her time. The girls were supportive. They all wanted Wendy to have success. She was a wonderful girl … and liked being on the team.”
Fraser was the first teacher-coach to be inducted on the Lisgar Collegiate Institute Athletic Wall of Fame. He was honoured in 2018 as part of a notable group, including hockey coach Brian Kilrea, tennis player Marjorie Blackwood and 1948 Olympic champion hockey coach Frank Boucher.
MARGUERITE WAGNER, died Sept. 11 at 93
The Rideau Tennis and Squash Club, which is now the Rideau Sports Centre, was an important part of Marguerite Wagner’s life, whether she was playing competitive tennis or enjoying the view from the large, second-floor veranda.
When she was on the tennis court, she found her way to winning a number of championships.
Wagner captured her first two National Capital Tennis Association titles in 1963 and 1964, when she teamed with Joan Guenault in intermediate women’s doubles.
When she moved into the open category, she joined Pat Marks to capture the NCTA women’s doubles championship in 1972 and the mixed doubles trophy with Elmer Hara in 1975.
In NCTA masters, age-group championships, Wagner was the women’s over-40 winner in 1975. For three years in a row, she was the women’s doubles over-40 champion with Sonia Ladouceur in 1970 and 1971, and with Joan Taylor in 1972.
Wagner also watched and supported her son Victor, Jr., who was a dominant force on the squash court. He won the 1976 and 1977 Canadian junior men’s U19 singles championships and also was the Men’s College Squash Association champion in the United States in 1982, while attending Yale University.
PETER LESAUX, Aug. 28 at 88
Football made its debut at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in 1954 and Peter Lesaux was a big part of it.
He was the first quarterback for the Blue and White that season and was named a league all-star in 1955. During one season, he was recognized as the runner-up in the voting for league MVP.
He also was St. Francis Xavier Student Class President, which was a forerunner to the leadership roles he would accept during his lengthy and distinguished career in the public service. Lesaux graduated from St. Francis in 1958.
He was inducted into the St. Francis Xavier Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and was a Canada Games Hall of Honour inductee in the builder category in 2013. He served on various boards of directors in his career, including the Canada Games Council and ParticipACTION.
Lesaux held many roles in the public service, including serving as assistant deputy minister in Sport Canada.
“Peter Lesaux certainly changed the way Canada Games’ policies and procedures are implemented today,” the Canada Games Council said in a 2013 press release. “Lesaux was the driving force behind such initiatives as doping controls, increased female athlete participation, bilingualism and coaching certification.
“The outstanding efforts put forth by Lesaux in these initiatives, as well as numerous other involvements, certainly merit him a place in the Canada Games Hall of Honour.”
RIC MYLES, Aug. 14 at 80
Two-way football players are a rare breed these days.
But 60 years ago, it was commonplace to see some of the best players spend almost an entire game on the field playing offence and defence.
Ric Myles was one such player.
After an impressive career at Fisher Park High School, he attended the University of Ottawa, where he built a reputation as “one of the most hard-nosed players to ever wear the Garnet and Grey,” says the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees Football Hall of Fame website.
His achievements as a fullback and linebacker, while playing for head coach Matt Anthony, earned him membership in the hall in the player category in 2011.
In his first of four seasons with the Gee-Gees (1965-67 and 1969), Myles was a key member of the undefeated team, which won the 1965 Ontario Intercollegiate Football Conference and the Ottawa-St. Lawrence Athletic Association championships. Myles was named an OIFC all-star in his first season.
He rushed for more than 700 yards in 1966, which placed him among the best in the country. His single-game mark of 170 yards against the Royal Military College ranked him among the top 10 in Gee-Gees football history at the time of his hall of fame induction.
Anthony considered the 1965 Gee-Gees team, which was his 12th season, to be his most dominant unit.
In 1966, Myles celebrated his second straight OIFC and O-SLAA championships. The Gee-Gees turned back the Bishop’s University Gaiters 36-14 in the O-SLAA final.
Friends and family are scheduled to gather Saturday to share memories and to celebrate Myles’ life from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Prescott Hotel.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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