Parkes started winning tradition

STEVE COAD, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

George Parkes was remembered yesterday by a longtime friend and former curling teammate as "a fine fellow, a great guy" and "a leader who, beginning in the 1960s, started a tradition of outstanding skips at St. Thomas Curling Club."

"When George was skip he was really in charge, and we all followed," said Jim Waite, who played lead on Parkes-skipped rinks that went to back-to-back Ontario championships in 1966 and '67.

"He took us to a new level -- the provincial championship level."

Parkes died Thursday of pneumonia while he and Betty, his wife of 61 years, were visiting their son Ernie and daughter-in-law Kathleen in Yarmouth, N.S. He was 83.

Waite, now the coach of the Canadian women's curling team, was among the young skips who prospered from Parkes' mentoring, part of a group that included Don Gilbert, Jim Lyle and Randy Baker.

"George made more difficult shots than any skip I can remember at that time," Waite said. "He took some young guys, and he wasn't that old himself, and he just took us to a higher level.

"He played like he'd been there before -- with confidence. That, of course, gave us confidence as well."

Parkes and his rink of Waite, Gilbert and Al Zikman finished second at the 1966 provincials and third the following year.

A heart-breaker happened in '66 in Brampton.

"Joe Gurowka (of Dixie Curling Club) made a shot with his last rock that he didn't call," Waite said through a pained tone of the 12th-end shot that robbed the St. Thomas crew of the championship and a trip to the Brier national final.

Parkes retired as a player prior to the '68 season and -- with Gilbert as skip and Dick Ronald as a newcomer to the rink, the St. Thomas crew won the provincial crown.

Parkes stepped right out of the University of Western Ontario in 1948 and right into the family business -- Ernie Parkes Wholesale, founded by his father -- which he later operated with his brother Bill in St. Thomas and Woodstock as Elgin-Parkes.

Curling was in the Parkes genes. In 1939, Ernie Parkes was a member of Bert Hall's Kitchener rink that won the McDonald Brier national men's championship. The rink also made the Brier in 1938 and '40.

George Parkes remained active in curling after his playing days were done. He was chairperson of the organizing committee for the St. Thomas-London hosting of the MacDonald Brier in 1974 at Treasure Island Gardens and in 1981 served on the committee that put on the Air Canada Silver Broom world men's championship at Thompson arena.

He was also a former president of the Ontario Curling Association and founding member of the Woodstock Curling Club.

Indeed, Parkes was a sportsman through and through and, along with curling, his passion extended deep into golf.

He was at the forefront of Oxford Golf and Country Club's move from Woodstock's southwest corner to the Craigowan Farm north of the city in the mid-1950s. Parkes served as club president in 1960-61 and was no slouch as a golfer, a six-handicapper at one point.

steve.coad@sunmedia.ca


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