Ron Foxcroft is such a busy man, as the old saying goes, he was ‘barely’ around for his own birth!
Fortunately, he had a night off in May to attend a dinner and accept the award as Burlington’s Citizen of the Year for 2015.
The inventor of the famous Fox-40 whistle hardly had time to brush his teeth before jetting off to England, where he paid an official visit to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in his role as Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Hamilton-based Argylle and Sutherland Highlanders.
A 2009 inductee into the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame, he was scheduled to make an appearance when the Hall held its 2015 induction ceremony at the Burlington Golf and Country Club, but he had to send his regrets to the committee who inducted five more members John Priestner, Chris Schultz, Graham Hood, Steve Mitruk and Mike Torsney.
This time Foxcroft was in Toronto accompanying Katherine Cirillo on a special junket to meet another British dignitary, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was speaking there. Cirillo is the mother of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was shot tragically while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa last October.
Foxcroft, who became the first person ever to be selected Citizen of the Year in both Burlington and Hamilton, was honored chiefly for heading the campaign that raised closed to $1 million to aid the victims of the devastating flood that hit Burlington last summer. He was named Hamilton’s Citizen of the Year in 1997.
“It really was a celebration of many, many people dropping everything and digging in for the flood victims,” he said. “This honor should have gone to every single person who helped their neighbors and fellow citizens get through this crisis.”
Foxcroft said he is especially grateful to the members of the volunteer claims adjustment committee who worked for seven months to assess requests and make sure victims were compensated properly.
“Flood relief brought me closer to the community in which I was born and grew up. I got to meet a lot of very giving people.”
Foxcroft’s service to Burlington continues as he works on the capital campaign of the Royal Botanical Gardens. In the past he also has volunteered on the capital campaigns of East Plains United and St. Mathew’s Anglican Churches and the Aldershot Community Village. The flower garden in front of Maplehurst school on Plains Road East is named after his parents Lewis and Lily Foxcroft. Lily once was the organist at East Plains United.
Following an impressive career at Nelson high school, in which he was a perennial Halton champion, Priestner starred as a linebacker on two Vanier Cup championship teams at the University of Western Ontario.
In 1979 he became the first defensive Canadian university player ever selected in the NFL draft, when he was chosen by the Baltimore Colts.
However, he signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and played in the CFL for seven seasons, appearing in three Grey Cups. He is now on the coaching staff at Nelson.
Schultz was already 6-6 and 210 pounds when he started his football career at Aldershot high school. He earned a scholarship to the University of Arizona, where he made one appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Dallas Cowboys drafted him in 1983, and he played in 21 NFL games as an offensive lineman under legendary coach Tom Landry. He returned to Canada in and spent nine years with the Toronto Argonauts, winning a Grey Cup title in 1991.
Schultz, who grew up on Cherrywood Drive, is now a football analyst for TSN.
Hood attended Nelson high school and went on to represent Canada in the 1,500 metres at both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. He also won the gold medal in that event at the 1999 Pan-American Games in Winnipeg.
Before that, he accepted a scholarship to the University of Arkansas, where he became an NCAA champion in the 1,500 and helped the Razorbacks win two national championships.
He was unable to attend the induction because he is in Kelowna, B.C., training for a triathlon. His award was accepted by Paula Schnurr, herself a two-time Olympian and 2010 inductee into the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame.
A member of the Canadian national gymnastics team for eight years and participant in two Olympics, Mitruk founded the Burlington Boys Gymnastics Club, which has grown tremendously from an inaugural membership of just 34.
He paid tribute to former Burlington Mayor Roly Bird, who encouraged him to prove it could be done and the centre on Maple Ave. was constructed by means of a three-way partnership.
Torsney, now 85, has competed in eight Masters World Championships in swimming, winning medals in seven of them.
He helped found the Burlington Water Polo Team in 1972 and spent two years on the executive of the Canadian Water Polo Association, where he was responsible for organizing, planning and preparing a program for the 1972 Olympics — Canada’s first time sending a water polo team to the Games.
Torsney also was instrumental in founding the Burlington Masters Swim Club in 1978.