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Death of a Rugby Legend

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fcukernaut

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This article appeared in a local paper a couple of days ago and, although it is a local rugby hero, I thought it would be of interest to the forum. George Jones was one of the founding fathers of rugby in Ontario and went to great lengths to ensure that the game thrived and developed. He even sold his house so that the rugby club would have a place to play. The article is rather long but well worth the read.



<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE("The Brantford Expositor)</div>
Mr. Rugby Touched Thousands of Lives

The city's sporting community has lost a legend. George Jones, Mr. Rugby in Brantford, died on Monday. He was 90.

"He loved me deeply," said his wife, Glenys, "but in certain instances I had the feeling he loved rugby more than me."

Former players also were aware of how much rugby meant to Jones.

"He loved the sport, he loved the game and he promoted it not only locally, but around the province of Ontario," said one of Jones's early pupils, Bob McGeein.

"For me, personally, he definitely taught us about sportsmanship and working as a team. He taught us how to love a sport. It was more than a sport to him, it was a lifestyle, which you can still see today.

"He's going to be missed."

Dave Clarke, another former player from Jones's early coaching days, echoed McGeein's thoughts.

"I think the biggest thing for me was that rugby was his passion," said Clarke. "It was a game he loved and it gave him many friends and a lot of fun. He was dedicated to passing that on.

"He was rugby. That's what anybody will tell you. He started it and kept exposing it to as many people as he could.

"There wouldn't be rugby the way it is if it wasn't for George and the people he influenced."

Current Brantford Collegiate Institute coach Bob Boos, who also was coached by Jones, had high praise.

"He's the one who started rugby so you can call him the Father of Rugby or Mr. Harlequin," said Boos. "I really appreciated his volunteer time and everybody who has been associated with him, enjoyed him."

Jones, who was born in Wales but moved to England when he was 15, was an outstanding rugby player in his youth, captaining a team from Birmingham. He also was selected to play for a team that represented the East Midland district.

George and Glenys left Wales in 1949 and it wasn't long before George and his brother, Vincent, began introducing "rugger" to Brantford.

The story of Brantford's first rugby game is legendary.

Jones saw an ad in a Toronto paper promoting the start of rugby in that city.

He called Dennis Fletcher, who was organizing the sport in Toronto, to tell him there were three or four Brantford players who would like to play.

Fletcher told Jones to start a club in Brantford. Jones formed a team with himself, his three brothers - Vincent, Thomas and Williams - and another Jones from an unrelated family.

With only four of the local players in Toronto on the date of the game, the Brantford players had to recruit others from previous games to play for them.

And so, in 1950, the Brantford Harlequins Rugby Football Club was born.

The club was up-and-down in those early years and folded for about three years later in the decade.

During the club's infancy, Jones realized that the future of the sport was in Canadian high schools. However, he was met with resistance before finally reaching a breakthrough in the early 1960s, when a seven-a-side tournament was held in Oshawa.

In 1962, Jones started the rugby program at North Park Collegiate, where McGeein and Clarke learned the game.

"I remember in high school when he came to North Park," said McGeein, a former national team player and the current manager for the Canadian national senior men's team that just returned from the Rugby World Cup in France.

"George came to North Park and brought the gospel of rugby with him. He turned out to be the best coach I've ever had."

McGeein said Jones's idea of bringing the sport to high schools was brilliant.

"He was probably 10 or 15 years ahead of the times," said McGeein, who also noted that Jones contributed to the Ontario and Canadian programs at various stages during his career.

"He was the first person in Ontario to recognize the development of the sport had to come at the high school level in Canada. He and (brother) Vince were probably the patriarchs of getting rugby in high schools."

A couple of years after McGeein was at North Park, Clarke got to learn the game from Jones.

"I'd never played rugby," said Clarke, who had come to Brantford from Toronto and eventually wound up winning a Grey Cup with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1972.

"He had the ability to attract a lot of people to come out and learn the game. He was very outgoing and pleasant."

In 1969, with the Harlequins strong once again, Jones took the team on its first tour. Following that first tour to Wales, Jones was ready to take the club to a new level.

"We used to play at the old Lions Park on Erie Ave.," recalled McGeein. "When we came back from that tour, a lot of us were very enthusiastic about the game.

"We didn't know it but at that time, George sold his house and actually gave money to the club for a down payment (on a new playing area)."

"For him to sell his house, so the club could build a clubhouse was probably the most selfless act I've ever witnessed," added Clarke.

Glenys wasn't sure about George's idea of selling their house on Chatham Street just so his boys would have a place to play.

"Those guys talked me into it," she said. "It didn't hurt that badly. I wanted to return to the country."

So, in the early 1970s, George and Glenys sold their house on Chatham Street, bought the land on Powerline Road that is now the Harlequins Grounds and moved into the house that sits on the property.

In fact, Glenys still lives there.

In the 1970s - and through into the '80s and '90s - Jones continued to coach and teach rugby to high school-aged kids in Brantford, mainly at Brantford Collegiate Institute.

During the 1970s, Jones coached Bob Boos and Mick Ferras at BCI.

Boos recalled going to the all-Ontario championships at York University in 1974 with Jones as coach. When the team won, to show his appreciation, Jones sang rugby songs - non-stop - during the entire trip home from the university.

But, as fun loving as Jones could be, Boos said he was serious about the game.

"He ran tough practices," said Boos. "He was a stern coach and a traditionalist. He would have hated the way kids' hamstring pants stick out now."

Boos also said it was Jones who initiated the tours across the Atlantic that have become an integral part of the rugby programs at BCI and St. John's College.

In 1976, Jones invited a team from Wales to come and play here and, the following year, BCI went to Wales on its first tour.

"When we went to play these Welsh teams, all these relatives and friends would come out of the woodwork to see him," said Boos. "He was a celebrity."

When Boos took over the rugby program at BCI, he invited Jones to go on tour with the team in 1989. Jones last went on tour with BCI in 1995.

Ferras said Jones contributed a lot to rugby in Brantford.

"The best thing about George was that he came to Brantford and formed the first generation of athletes who had never seen the game," said Ferras. "They were all basketball and hockey guys and they got a passion for it. Then that first generation passed it on to guys like me and Boos.

"He taught everybody all about how the sport should be played - you go out and play and then you socialize afterwards."

Aside from bringing the sport to the high school level, the social part of the game will be Jones's legacy.

"He loved the sport," said Clarke, who found it amazing the number of rugby songs and poems that Jones knew.

"There was nothing personal in it for him. It was just so he could expose it to people and teach them about the game and the social skills involved in it."

"It wasn't just a game, it was a lifestyle," said Glenys, also noting that George was a volunteer driver for the CNIB and kidney foundation, as well as a Boy Scout leader at the Cub level for many years.

Jones continued to coach into the early 1990s, taking on a group of midget BCI boys that eventually captured a provincial senior title in 1995. After that, he moved on to another challenge - beginning a girls program at BCI.

"He always used to tell the boys they better smarten up because the girls are smarter and they're brighter," recalled Glenys.

"He was agile and spry enough to coach into his 80s," said Boos. "Not too many guys could do that."

Jones, who had to give up coaching about 10 years ago when he became ill with Alzheimer's disease, had one more unfulfilled goal.

"His desire was to get rugby into elementary schools," said Glenys. That goal may yet be reached - the Harlequins started a mini program a couple of years ago. Whether his objective of introducing the game into elementary schools is achieved is moot. Jones gave much more to one sport than anyone could have expected.

"He was just a great ambassador for rugby and it was all selfless," said Clarke.

"He was certainly one of the finest gentlemen I've met, and if I could be half the man he was, that would be saying something."

Boos said it's almost immeasurable to calculate how many lives Jones has touched, considering he has taught thousands of players, some of whom have become coaches themselves and taught many more.

"It's got to be in the thousands," said Boos.

"He was gregarious and outgoing," said Glenys, whose husband retired as the manager of purchasing at the old C.E. Bauer Ltd. company. "He had no interest in money.

"He was a people person. You could find George on the stage with a bottle of beer in one hand and a microphone in the other."

George is survived by Glenys, brother Vincent, son Wynn, grandson Chris and his wife, Heather. He is predeceased by brothers Thomas and William.

Friends will be received today at the Dennis Toll Funeral Home on Charing Cross Street from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

The funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday at Grace Anglican Church on Albion Street.

George Jones, credited with founding the sport of rugby in Brantford and influencing thousands of players, many of whom later became coaches, stayed involved in the game well into his 80s.

Thomas and William - and another Jones from an unrelated family.

With only four of the local players in Toronto on the date of the game, the Brantford players had to recruit others from previous games to play for them.

And so, in 1950, the Brantford Harlequins Rugby Football Club was born.

The club was up-and-down in those early years and folded for about three years later in the decade.

During the club's infancy, Jones realized that the future of the sport was in high schools. However, he was met with resistance before finally reaching a breakthrough in the early 1960s, when a seven-a-side tournament was held in Oshawa.

In 1962, Jones started the rugby program at North Park Collegiate, where McGeein and Clarke learned the game.

"I remember in high school, when he came to North Park," said McGeein, a former national team player and the current manager for the Canadian national senior men's team that just returned from the Rugby World Cup in France.

'gospel of rugby'

"George came to North Park and brought the gospel of rugby with him. He turned out to be the best coach I've ever had."

McGeein said Jones's idea of bringing the sport to high schools was brilliant.

"He was probably 10 or 15 years ahead of the times," said McGeein, who also noted that Jones contributed to the Ontario and Canadian programs at various stages during his career.

"He was the first person in Ontario to recognize the development of the sport had to come at the high school level in Canada. He and (brother) Vince were probably the patriarchs of getting rugby in high schools."

A couple of years after McGeein was at North Park, Clarke got to learn the game from Jones.

"I'd never played rugby," said Clarke, who had come to Brantford from Toronto and eventually wound up winning a Grey Cup with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1972.

'outgoing and pleasant'

"He had the ability to attract a lot of people to come out and learn the game. He was very outgoing and pleasant."

In 1969, with the Harlequins strong once again, Jones took the team on its first tour. Following that first tour to Wales, Jones was ready to take the club to a new level.

"We used to play at the old Lions Park on Erie Ave.," recalled McGeein. "When we came back from that tour, a lot of us were very enthusiastic about the game.

"We didn't know it, but at that time, George sold his house and actually gave money to the club for a down payment (on a new playing area)."

"For him to sell his house, so the club could build a clubhouse was probably the most selfless act I've ever witnessed," added Clarke.

Glenys wasn't sure about George's idea of selling their house on Chatham Street just so his boys would have a place to play.

"Those guys talked me into it," she said. "It didn't hurt that badly. I wanted to return to the country."

So, in the early 1970s, George and Glenys sold their house on Chatham Street, bought the land on Powerline Road that is now the Harlequins Grounds and moved into the house that sits on the property.

In fact, Glenys still lives there.

In the 1970s - and through into the '80s and '90s - Jones continued to coach and teach rugby to high school-aged kids in Brantford, mainly at Brantford Collegiate Institute.

During the 1970s, Jones coached Bob Boos and Mick Ferras at BCI.

Boos recalled going to the all-Ontario championships at York University in 1974 with Jones as coach. When the team won, to show his appreciation, Jones sang rugby songs - non-stop - during the entire trip home from the university.

But, as fun-loving as Jones could be, Boos said he was serious about the game.

"He ran tough practices," said Boos. "He was a stern coach and a traditionalist. He would have hated the way kids' hamstring pants stick out now."

'he was a celebrity'

Boos also said it was Jones who initiated the tours across the Atlantic that have become an integral part of the rugby programs at BCI and St. John's College.

In 1976, Jones invited a team from Wales to play here and, the following year, BCI went to Wales on its first tour.

"When we went to play these Welsh teams, all these relatives and friends would come out of the woodwork to see him," said Boos. "He was a celebrity."

When Boos took over the rugby program at BCI, he invited Jones to go on tour with the team in 1989. Jones last went on tour with BCI in 1995.

Ferras, who also coaches at BCI, said Jones contributed a lot to rugby in Brantford.

"The best thing about George was that he came to Brantford and formed the first generation of athletes who had never seen the game," said Ferras. "They were all basketball and hockey guys and they got a passion for it. Then that first generation passed it on to guys like me and Boos.

"He taught everybody all about how the sport should be played - you go out and play and then you socialize afterwards."

Aside from bringing the sport to the high school level, the social part of the game will be Jones's legacy.

"He loved the sport," said Clarke, who found it amazing the number of rugby songs and poems that Jones knew.

"There was nothing personal in it for him. It was just so he could expose it to people and teach them about the game and the social skills involved in it."

"It wasn't just a game, it was a lifestyle," said Glenys, also noting that George was a volunteer driver for the CNIB and kidney foundation, as well as a boy scout leader at the cub level for many years.

Jones continued to coach into the early 1990s, taking on a group of midget BCI boys that eventually captured a provincial senior title in 1995. After that, he moved on to another challenge - beginning a girls program at BCI.

"He always used to tell the boys they better smarten up because the girls are smarter and they're brighter," recalled Glenys.

coached into his 80s

"He was agile and spry enough to coach into his 80s," said Boos. "Not too many guys could do that."

Jones, who had to give up coaching about 10 years ago when he became ill with Alzheimer's disease, had one more unfulfilled goal.

"His desire was to get rugby into elementary schools," said Glenys. That goal may yet be reached - the Harlequins started a mini program a couple of years ago.

Whether his objective of introducing the game into elementary schools is achieved is moot. Jones gave much more to one sport than anyone could have expected.

"He was just a great ambassador for rugby and it was all selfless," said Clarke.

"He was certainly one of the finest gentlemen I've met, and if I could be half the man he was, that would be saying something."

Boos said it's almost immeasurable to calculate how many lives Jones has touched, considering he has taught thousands of players, some of whom have become coaches themselves and taught many more.

'people person'

"It's got to be in the thousands," said Boos.

"He was gregarious and outgoing," said Glenys, whose husband retired as the manager of purchasing at the former C.E. Bauer Ltd. company. "He had no interest in money.

"He was a people person. You could find George on the stage with a bottle of beer in one hand and a microphone in the other."

Besides his Wife, Jones is survived by his brother Vincent, son Wynn, grandson Chris and his wife, Heather. He is predeceased by brothers Thomas and William. Visitation is today at the Dennis Toll Funeral Home on Charing Cross Street from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday at Grace Anglican Church on Albion Street.

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