The Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition is proud to announce its Class of 2021. Joining the group of athletes, coaches, and builders already elected is the trio of Joseph “Joey” Bomberry, James “Jim” Simmons, and Walter “Walt” Gardner.
The class of 2021 will join the nominees from 2019, George and Mary Ann Pieters (archery club builders and competitors), Robert Proracki (athlete and official in a variety of sports) and Haven Swarts (gymnastics).
All will be inducted at the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition Dinner on July 16, 2022 at the Hungarian Hall, Delhi, Ontario. Due to the global pandemic, inductees were not selected for 2020.
Known for his infectious smile, friendly demeanor and passion for life, you’d be hard pressed to find a more well-liked Norfolk County resident than Joey Bomberry. Bomberry became affectionately known as a “rink rat” in the early 60s, assisting local minor hockey and junior teams with sticks, water bottles and any other task that needed to be done.
He was a constant fixture at the rink, and also the baseball fields in the region, both lending a hand and offering words of encouragement to all participants. Bomberry was also a passionate supporter of local firefighters, often helping out when asked and even going on a few calls to assist.
“Joey was an institution,” says Sports Hall inductee and past chair Don Stewart. “Everyone who knew him loved him.” Bomberry spent hundreds of hours assisting local teams, coaches and players, so much so that the Sports Hall will include Bomberry as its first-ever ‘Sports Ambassador’.
Sports Ambassadors are spokespersons, boosters, and/or personalities that exemplify everything about the game, sportsmanship, rallying for the cause and showing dedication and love for sport in our area. They are beyond passionate about their favourite athletic endeavours and their community, even though they may not be official members of a certain team.
Jim Simmons was a rink rat growing up in his hometown of Port Dover. It was then that he developed a passion for hockey and competition. This passion would eventually be showcased at the highest levels years later. He had a strong career on the field, winning multiple slo pitch titles. Simmons became just the third pitcher to toss a no-hitter in a provincial tournament in 1988. On the ice he won multiple championships at the Simcoe Curling Club.
At the age of 65, Simmons was diagnosed with macular degeneration but refused to let a lack of sight slow him down. Playing mostly with a local rink that includes fellow Sports Hall member Mike Vrooman, Simmons won four national championships and two provincial titles. In the summer, he turned his attention to the links where he became the Ontario Vision Impaired Golf senior men’s champion three-straight times from 2011-2013. But that’s not all. Simmons competes for the Port Dover Sailing Club and, among other titles, won Boat of the Year, and the Port Colborne to Port Dover Race in 2018.
“Jim always played the game with honesty,” said Simmons’ slo pitch teammate, fellow Sports Hall inductee, and former Norfolk County Mayor Charlie Luke. “He supported all his team members at all times both on and off the diamond.”
Born in 1964, Walt Gardner excelled at various levels of hockey, baseball/fastball, coaching and as an official. He won a total of 11 championships as a player and coach with teams at many levels, including with the Montreal Royals (Junior A), Simcoe Gunners, and Simcoe Intermediate Fastball.
Gardner excelled on the ice enough to warrant an invitation to Chicago Black Hawks training camp in 1950 at a time when the National Hockey League boasted only six teams and precious few roster spots. Gardner traded his stick for a whistle after his playing days were over and he would eventually spend 13 years as one of the best and most well-respected officials in the Ontario Hockey Association. His time in stripes included the 1975-76 season in the North American Hockey League.
“Both teams knew that if Walt was refereeing, the outcome was due to the players input rather than the decisions of the referee,” said Tony Steyaert, a former OHA official and supervisor. “ I just want to say for all his skills and efforts he put on the ice, he was a good person and has been a lifetime friend to me and others.”
The Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition is located in the Simcoe Recreation Centre, pool viewing area level. Displays of sports team photos and inductee plaques can be viewed during regular operating hours. Additional information about events, past inductees and how to nominate individuals can be found on elsewhere on our website, www.norfolksports.ca.
Written by: Jacob Robinson, NCSHR Director