Gone, but not forgotten.
The late Struchan Gilson passed away suddenly at his home on Aug. 18, 2005 but clearly left a lasting impression on the athletes, friends and colleagues he knew as a coach, player and volunteer in the community.
Local elected officials, Muskie alumnus, and friends joined Gilson’s daughter, Rylee Raymond, Monday night to announce the official unveiling of the Struchan L. H. Gilson Soccer Pitches at the St. Francis Sportsfields.
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft said naming the pitches after Gilson took longer than he’d hoped but is a fitting tribute to recognize Gilson’s countless contributions to soccer in Fort Frances.
“He was on the committee in 1994 that planned and got funding for this whole soccer complex,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft told those on hand for the ceremony. “From that point on, Struchan took it upon himself to baby sit the soccer fields.
“Back when we used to have hot, dry summers, you could see Struchan out here almost every day with that water cannon going up and down the fields,” he continued. “He was instrumental at bringing NorWOSSA soccer to fruition, instrumental in bringing along community soccer here.
“We just really wanted to honour everything he has done in the past and this [honour] will continue to represent what he cared for and lived for, and I’m sure he is looking down from above and smiling on this day,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft said.
After 34 years of teaching at the elementary and high school level, Gilson retired in 1996. He was always very active in sports, sitting on the local recreation commission for more than 20 years and helping organize and co-ordinate the Borderland Soccer Association.
Gilson also helped start (along with Jim Curr), and then coach, the Muskie girls’ soccer team for 18 seasons. He also coached and refereed junior and senior girls’ volleyball for more than 15 years.
Gilson was cremated with a “Soccer is Life” t-shirt and a ball signed by his 2000 OFSAA soccer team.
“He has definitely made a huge, undeniable impact in our community,” former player Krista Luchka wrote in an e-mail that was read by Amy Wilson-Hands at the ceremony. “This man was extremely kind and had one of the biggest hearts I have ever encountered.
“Not only did he pass along his love for the game, but he also inspired each and every one of us to better ourselves both on the field and in the most important game: life,” Luchka stressed.
“To this day, when I need that extra edge in my career or simply to get through a run, my
motivation always comes from the soccer field with Mr. G and Mr. Curr,” Luchka enthused.
Curr, who read the eulogy for his friend at Gilson’s funeral service at the ’52 Canadians Arena four years ago, could not attend the ceremony due to out-of-town commitments, but fellow long-time friend Frank Maraj paid respects on behalf of both of them.
“It’s a defining moment for me, for Jim, and for us all here to see a person of [Gilson’s] calibre recognized in this way,” Maraj said. “He was such a devoted, selfless person, and an integral part of the community.”
Gilson also sat on town council in his later years and was recognized at Monday night’s council meeting by his former colleagues.
“Sometimes he showed up right off the field with a little bit of grass stuck on him, and we used to tease him about it,” recalled Coun. Sharon Tibbs at the meeting.
“But we know how much he cared about sports and kids in this community and I think that we’re very proud that it’s seen fit to allow a commemorative plaque to go in his name,” she added.
“I did have the opportunity to work with him as well and soccer was always number one, sports were number one, kids were number one,” Mayor Roy Avis noted.
“He was always concerned about all the infrastructure and recreational facilities within the community, so it was great to have him, great to sit with him on council,” he added.
Gilson was 63 when he passed away, just two weeks after his son, Garfield, tragically died.
Gilson’s wife, Pat, couldn’t attend Monday’s event due to an illness while his son, Eric, had work commitments. His daughter, Rylee Raymond, said a few words at the ceremony on the family’s behalf.
“We don’t have anyone living in the town right now, but it still very much feels like home and it will always feel like home,” Raymond said. “It’s great to see my dad’s name up there, but I’m sure he’d be thinking, ‘What are you guys doing standing around a sign when you could be playing soccer?’”
“On behalf of my family, thank you so much for this. It’s truly a great honour,” Raymond lauded.