A fastball and hockey star and coach, a long-time figure skating volunteer and a golfer with ties to the history of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club are the three newest members of the town’s Sports Wall of Fame.
At the first in-person ceremony since 2019 at Virgil’s Meridian Credit Union Arena, plaques honouring Trevor Falk, Yvonne Haines and Launcelot Cressy Servos were unveiled to a crowd of just under 100 family members, friends, government officials and teammates.
Servos, who was born in 1879 in Buffalo, New York and moved with his parents to NOTL, was the first of the new inductees celebrated Friday night. He was nominated by the NOTL Museum.
Launcelot’s second cousin, Daniel Servos, explained that the honouree started his fascination with and long career in golf as a young caddy at the NOTL Golf Club. Soon, Launcelot was entering long drive competitions in the US, such as the one in 1897 where he placed second with a drive of 186 yards, less than half of what would win a similar modern day competition.
Servos won a major international tournament in Niagara before turning pro and becoming one of the founding members of the US Professional Golfers Association (PGA). He played in the 1900 US Open, designed the state of Florida’s first golf course, had his name on a set of McGregor brand irons and wrote some of the first popular golf instruction books.
“He travelled throughout North America and visited many golf courses,” Daniel told the crowd, “but Niagara-on-the-Lake was always home, and he maintained a residence here on Gate Street. Though it doesn’t appear he was a member of the NIagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, he continued to be associated with it, and he donated the Servos Trophy, which is still played for today in the men’s tournament.”
Daniel also connected Launcelot directly to another member of the NOTL Sports Wall of Fame, perennial men’s club champion Al Derbyshire, who died in 2018.
“He used to watch Launcelot and carried his clubs on the Niagara-on-the-Lake golf course,” Daniel said. “It’s nice to see that tie-in.”
Launcelot died in Toronto in 1969 and is buried at the St. Mark’s Anglican Church cemetery.
Next up came Yvonne Haines, named to the Wall of Fame in the builder category for her three decades of volunteer support of the NOTL Figure Skating Club. Current director of skating programs and ice chair Judi Boyle-Krzeczkowski introduced Haines as a “true role model” who continues to contribute to the club with “passion, commitment and enthusiasm.”
“She is continuously picking up new ideas,” Boyle-Krzeczkowski said of the club’s current co-president and treasurer, “with her invaluable resources and knowledge from regional meetings, Western Ontario AGM’s and the many Skate Canada annual conventions she has attended across Canada.”
Boyle-Krzeczkowski went on to laud Haines for her hard work during the pandemic to ensure the club was following provincial mandates while continuing to offer fun skating programs for local kids.
The soft-spoken Haines began her speech by congratulating the other two inductees. Haines then said she learned to skate from her father, a Queenston Volunteer Firefighter who helped create an outdoor rink at the old Laura Secord PUblic School, where she attended. Her passions for both figure skating and volunteering were developed in those early days.
When her daughter Emma began figure skating in the early 1990s, Haines noticed a poster calling for volunteers to help with a carnival. She signed up and, as often happens with first-time volunteers who show enthusiasm, Haines was asked to consider taking a position on the club’s board. She was named club secretary at her first meeting.
Soon, Haines was leading the charge to move the club forward.
“We negotiated and secured double our ice hours,” remembered Haines. “We offered our Can-Skate, our Pre-Can program, and for the older skaters we offered three different levels. We went from three days of ice, to five and a few years later to seven days for both recreational and competitive skaters. And our reputation began to grow.”
“I am grateful that I can still give my time,” Haines continued, “and that I can pass on my passion to anyone that will listen. It brings me joy to see former skaters bring their children back to their home club to learn to skate. And I’m especially thrilled to see my own granddaughters skate at the junior and pre-junior levels, and my grandson, who will enter the Pre-Can class.”
Chair of the Sports Wall of Fame committee, Ward Simpson, said Trevor Falk’s nomination form was seven pages long, encompassing his accomplishments in hockey, fastball and track and field as well as his continued contributions to NOTL sports organizations as a coach and volunteer.
Simpson, MP Tony Baldinelli, MPP Wayne Gates, and NOTL councillor Erwin Weins, all hockey goaltenders, expressed relief that none of them had ever had to face Falk on the ice. Then Rich Andres delivered the speech to enshrine his long-time friend.
“Looking at Trevor you will see,” said Andres, “not only a highly successful athlete in multiple sports, but someone who has always competed in a manner that earns the respect of his teammates. Former teammates and coaches describe him as a contributor, winner, sportsman, ambassador, and humble. These are all characteristics that every coach looks for in an athlete.”
Falk was a frequent winner of many track and field events during his high school days in town. He played with the St. Catharines Junior B Falcons of the Golden Horseshoe Hockey League, scoring 52 goals in one season, and followed that up with three stellar seasons with the Brock University Badgers. He has also been a fastball standout with the Niagara Snappers, winning MVP awards and helping them capture numerous championships. Falk coaches with the NOTL Wolves Hockey Club and also serves as its director of hockey development.
“His God-given ability is paralleled with a strong character, work ethic and sportsmanship,” Andres said. “What greater compliment can you give a player than that coaches and players all want him on their team and dread playing against him.”
Falk, who was joined by his father Bill to unveil his plaque, explained to much laughter from the gathering, that he joined sports because he was trying to get away from the chores on the farm.
“You never run out of work on the farm,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to play sports? It grew on me more and more, playing sports. The older I got and the higher the level of competition, the more I wanted to give back.”
He choked up when talking of his teammates, former coaches and friends who nominated him for the honour, and thanked his parents, sisters and his wife Stephanie for their support through the years.
“I never thought I would be joining the people on this wall,” Falk added, genuinely surprised at his selection. “I’ve always looked at them as local heroes as I walked past them to go coach the kids.”.
Falk, Haines and Servos bring the total members on the Wall of Fame to 27. Lord Mayor Betty Disero outlined the town’s 2003 decision to create the wall following the death that year of Stan Ignatczyk, a former Lord Mayor and successful lacrosse player, coach and manager. Ignatczyk’s family donated money for the cause, and since then the committee continues to take responsibility for the selection of members and raising funds for the plaques.
Disero urged NOTL residents to ensure their children recognize the important role these athletic role models play in town.
“This wall is even as important as our museum,” Disero said, “in telling the story and culture of our community. I ask you to bring your families here to read about our heroes in Niagara-on-the-Lake.”
The evening actually began by recognizing the success of the undefeated NOTL Thunderhawks Under-22 lacrosse team, who won the Ontario Lacrosse Festival provincial championship the first week of August.
Assistant coach and trainer Dan Willms lamented the effect the pandemic has had on the town’s lacrosse program, forcing the club to cancel its Junior B team.