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Jeans Memorial Bonspiel carries legacy of local sport and brotherly love

From left: David Thomas, Sue Thomas, Joe Jeans, Grace Jeans, Denise Anderson, Lloyd Francis. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By René J. Roy


PORT AUX BASQUES — On Monday, Sept. 19, the doors of the Bruce II Sports Centre were opened just for about a dozen people. The small group was there for Joe Jeans.

More accurately, they were there to receive their gifts from Mr. Jeans. Every year he donates sweaters or jackets to the winning team of the Jeans Memorial Bonspiel.

Joe sponsors the bonspiel, and has done so since 1988, in memory of his brother, Lawrence, who died accidentally at the age of 33. Lawrence had long been a curler, and had been instrumental in the formation of the Gateway Curling Club.

He sold tickets, dollar shares, and spent endless time fundraising. He organized the tournament to ensure participants had a trophy with their name on it for the last event of the season. Lawrence was apparently far from shy about wanting to win the trophy himself.

“His sole goal was to get his name on that trophy,” said Joe. “‘I gotta get my name on that G.D. trophy’ he used to say.”

Lawrence and his team did, in fact, win and subsequently were the last to have their names engraved on the original trophy.

“The year he did it was the year he got killed,” said Joe.

Lawrence had been so important to the formation of the club that, after his passing, the club gifted the original trophy to Joe, and asked him if he would like to get a memorial trophy in Lawrence’s memory instead. Joe acccepted, and promptly began a search to replace it. In 1988, almost two full years later, Joe found a curling stone trophy while on a trip to Scotland.

“I went to different places and I couldn’t find what I was looking for. But finally I was on a trip to Scotland, and I toured a glass factory there, and I saw this particular curling stone.”

After he had it customized, the trophy was shipped back to Joe who it placed in the original Bruce Arena, which was originally located atop Army Hill. The Jeans Memorial Bonspiel was formed right away and rapidly became the one tournament every curler in the area wanted to win.

David Thomas, admits he has been chasing the trophy for more than a decade, and won it for the very first time this past year.

“So my team ended up playing a lot of good teams, and we ended up having the most points, over those other good teams. My team consisted of Floyd Francis, my wife, Sue Thomas, and Denise Anderson.”

David Thomas is also the current president of the Gateway Curling Club.

“I’ve competed for the Jeans every year since I’ve been here,” laughed Thomas. “I think it’s been twelve or thirteen years.”

Thomas said that the Jeans trophy has a great deal of significance for the club.

“This one has a lot of history. There’s a lot of story behind the tournament, and the sponsorship that Joe does with thie tournament. Everyone wants to win the Jeans Memorial.”

The trophy itself was nearly lost in the 1995 fire that consumed the Bruce Arena. According to Joe, immediately after the fire, he figured the stone was gone as well.

“Everything that was in that arena was lost. And I figured the trophy was gone too. So I did some talking around to some members of the curling club. And I said, ‘I don’t suppose there’s any way somebody had that home.’ Because usually whoever won it used to take it home for a while. And sure enough, one of the team members who had won it had taken it home, simply because they had broken the handle, and he wanted to try to fix it.”

Joe’s face breaks out in a huge grin at the memory of the trophy’s lucky escape.

“It was just awesome. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it.”

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