Sports Hall Announces Class of 2021

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.

Joey Bomberry
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
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.”

Walt Gardner
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 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,

Written by:  Jacob Robinson, NCSHR Director


2021 Induction Dinner Deferred

Usually, the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition holds an Induction Dinner to honour the most recent inductees every two years. The next Induction Dinner would normally be scheduled for 2021. However, given the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 situation, the Induction Dinner will be deferred, with the current thinking being to reschedule for 2022. More details will be provided as decisions are confirmed.


2019 Sports Hall Inductees Announced

The Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition is pleased to announce George and Mary Ann Pieters, Robert Proracki and Haven Swarts as the 2019 Inductees.  This group represents outstanding accomplishments in athletic success as well as leadership in officiating and coaching.

Photo of Mary Ann and George Pieters
Mary Ann and George Pieters

George and Mary Ann Pieters of McDowell Road in Simcoe have contributed over 40 years of their time and talents to the sport of archery.

Both got their start at the Belgium Hall in Delhi and have expanded their influence as role models, coaches and ambassadors for teaching archery to various youth organizations across Norfolk County.

George and Mary Ann have also won championship titles at many local, national, and international archery events.

Photo of Robert Proracki
Robert (Bob) Proracki

Robert ( Bob) Proracki, a Waterford native and proud resident of Round Plains, is being recognized as an outstanding athlete and official in a variety of sports.

Most notable is Bob’s success as a pitcher in the sport of fastball over a span of over 44 years. During that time, Bob was a member of several championship teams, including one with the London Major League which earned a Provincial AA Championship.

Photo of Haven Swarts with medal
Haven Swarts

Haven Swarts of Port Dover has achieved tremendous success as a power tumbler in the sport of gymnastics.

Starting at age 8, Haven was introduced to the sport of tumbling at the local Simcoe Gliders club. As a youth she went on to represent Ontario and Canada at international events.

Her trophy case includes several gold medals from Canadian championships and a top ten placing at the Worlds.  Haven is also an accomplished hockey player and gives back to the community by mentoring young athletes with special needs.

The 2019 Inductees will be celebrated at an official ceremony in 2021.


2017 Inductees Announced

Announcement of 2017 Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition inductees, Sharon Gardner, John Lotus, John MacDonald and the late Richard Wood. A brief description highlighting each inductee’s most significant sporting achievements is included. These inductees will be recognized at the July, 2019 induction ceremony.

On March 26, 2018, the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition announced its four 2017 inductees. Sharon Gardner, John Lotus, John MacDonald and the late Richard Wood have all been named to the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition for 2017. These outstanding athletes and builders are being recognized for their contribution to the rich sports history of Norfolk County.

Sharon Gardner has made significant contributions to figure skating as an athlete and coach. She joined the Port Dover Figure Skating Club in 1955 when the club opened. Most notably, she was a junior and senior’s pairs and solo champion and skated professionally as a member of the Shipstads and Johnson Ice Follies of San Francisco. She has served as a CanSkate coach, executive member and taught skating with Brantford Parks & Recreation for the W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind.

Since falling in love with the sport in high school, John Lotus has been a local curling ambassador for over 45 years. He curled competitively for many years, travelling to many bonspiels and bringing home championships. John has been a member of two provincial winning teams as a player and started coaching the vision impaired team from the Simcoe Curling Club and helped them realize three national championships. He also coached one of his athletes to win three provincial awards in the sport of golf.

John MacDonald is a retired professional football player from Simcoe. His career started at Simcoe Composite School, took him to McGill University and to pro ball with the Hamilton Tiger Cats who selected him in the first round of the 2002 CFL draft.

John continues to coach and mentor players and has developed many players at SCS, WDDS, McKinnon Park Secondary, Youth Football Camps, University of Guelph, McGill University and currently at Pauline Johnson Collegiate Vocational School. He has won numerous awards for his talent as a player and has contributed to the sport through his work with the SOAR program which is a unique program designed to support the pathway of aspiring elite athletes.

The late Richard Wood will be recognized for his accomplishments as an athlete in the sport of open water distance swimming as a marathon swimming champion. In 1989 he completed a solo swim across Lake Ontario. In 1990 he became the first Canadian male to ever complete a double crossing of Lake Erie. Richard also contributed to the sport as a meet organizer, manager and fundraiser. Most notably, he was part of a large relay team that swam across Lake Ontario to raise funds for Variety Village. Professionally he was employed at the George Hull Centre for Children and Families in Etobicoke, as a youth counsellor. He was inducted into the Solo Swims of Ontario Hall of Fame, served on the executive. Richard passed away in 1998 at the age of 39 but left a permanent impression on the sport.

For these and many more achievements, these outstanding athletes and builders along with the 2018 inductees will be inducted into the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition at a gala celebration in July of 2019.