Air Commodore Len Birchall
( 1915 - 2004 )
A native of St. Catharines, Len Birchall graduated from St. Catharines Collegiate and joined the Lincoln and Welland Regiment in 1932. After attending the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, in 1937 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Birchall flew defensive controls out of Dartmouth Nova Scotia and was attached to the Trans-Atlantic Ferry Command before joining 413 Squadron, which was operating out of the Shetland Islands, carrying out patrols off the coast of Norway, as well as covering convoys to Murmansk, conducting commando raids, and anti-submarine patrols. The Squadron was transferred to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in early 1942 and it was there where Birchall, as a Squadron Leader, prevented another Pearl Harbour, a sneak attack on the island by the Japanese. His accomplishments over the Indian Ocean halted the Japanese in their plan to close the ring in the southern Hemisphere. Winston Churchill called Wing Cmdr. Len Birchall an, "airman who made one of the most important single contributions to victory" in World War II.For Air Commodore Len Birchall's full biography, please click here.
( 1915 - 2011 )
Alice was one of a handful of women in the vibrant and energetic group of artists who formed the Niagara Artists' Company.She was, and is, a true artist of enormous strength and resourcefulness with a fecund imagination. Her work was powerful and original, always surprising and in a constant state of flux. She was impervious to the barbs of critics or the pressures of the established art world to follow the trends. She seemed always to listen only to her inner voice, to follow her creative imperative, to get the new work done no matter what. She was deadly serious about her work, but never suppressed her wonderful sense of humour. She is a truth sayer. I believe Alice Crawley is one of the unsung great artists of our time."For Alice Crawley's full biography, please click here.
( 1930 - )
Archie Katzman has been a successful local businessman, a tireless fundraiser for numerous charities, and a long-serving provincial appointee. He recently retired from his role as General Manager of the St. Catharines Club, where he spent almost 20 years rebuilding the club’s membership. Katzman is still active on the Board of Directors within the club as well as a goodwill ambassador. He has been recognized with numerous community awards including the Community Service Award (1989), the Niagara Entrepreneur Community Contribution Award and the Canadian Red Cross Power of Humanity Award (both in 2006). He was given an honorary doctorate degree from Brock University in 1993, and was named Honorary Co-Chair of the Niagara Health System capital campaign to build the city’s new hospital and regional Walker Family Cancer Centre.
( 1977 - )
Olympic and world medalist rower, Buffy Alexander started rowing in high school when she attended Holy Cross Secondary School in St. Catharines. Buffy developed her rowing talent at the St. Catharines Rowing Club in Pt. Dalhousie. At 23 years old, she became one of rowing's youngest stars. At her first international competition at the 1995 World Junior Championships in Poznan, Poland, she finished fourth in the coxless four. She has competed in the eights at every world championships since 1997.She has represented Canada and the strength of the St. Catharines Rowing community worldwide. She won a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in the eights event, and at the 1998, 1999, and 2003 World Championships at Milan, St. Catharines, and Cologne respectively. Buffy represented Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. Her dedication to the sport is an encouragement to all young Canadian rowers.For Buffy Williams's full biography, please click here.
( 1946 - 1998 )
Few saw life through the same lens as the often controversial, always inspirational, artist Dennis Tourbin. Dennis was a poet, painter, performance artist, novelist, and art and poetry-magazine publisher. He was active in the Artist-run Centre Network since its earliest days; he was a founding member of the Niagara Artists' Centre, Gallery 101 in Ottawa, and Chair of the Board of Artspace in Peterborough. Dennis was key in the development of the lively regional art scene that began in the early 1970s; he felt that artists have a profound connection to their communities and drew their inspiration from them. He left a lasting mark on a generation of artists. His numerous works are exhibited, published, and performed throughout North America and Europe. His works can be found in the National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Council Art Bank, the National Archives of Canada, and dozens of private and public collections throughout Canada including the Charlottetown Confederation Centre for the Arts, Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound, and the Art Gallery of Peterborough.For Dennis Tourbin's full biography, please click here.
( 1948 - )
Born in St. Catharines, Donald Ziraldo received his B.Sc. in Agriculture at the University of Guelph in 1971. He and partner Karl Kaiser founded Inniskillin in 1975. They have dedicated themselves to producing high quality estate-bottled wines. Ziraldo was awarded an Honorary Degree from Humber College and an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Brock University in 1994 (in recognition of achievements including the arts, community service, and contributions to the university). He also received the Order of Ontario in 1993 and 1998. National Post Business Magazine chose Ziraldo as one of the top twenty-five Canadian CEOs of the century in 1999. "More than any individual, Donald Ziraldo embodies Ontario's wine industry," said Robin Garrett, President and CEO of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation. He has been a driving influence in bringing together Ontario wines, agriculture, and regional cuisine to the international stage.For Donald Ziraldo's full biography, please click here.
( 1940 - )
Gerry Cheevers was born in St. Catharines, and is known as a hockey pioneer. He is a former goaltender in the National Hockey League and World Hockey League, between 1961 and 1980. He was one of the first goaltenders to truly be a "third defenseman" when he would wander from his net and challenge shooters. Cheevers also wore one of the most distinctive face masks in hockey. Every time he was hit in the mask by the puck, the trainer would paint stitches where it had hit. In 2008, the mask was named the greatest hockey mask of all time by The Hockey News magazine. Cheevers is most famous for his two stints with the Boston Bruins, where he backstopped the team to Stanley Cup wins in 1970 and 1972.He holds the NHL record for longest undefeated streak (32 games, 24-0-8) with Boston in 1971-72. Gerry is one of only 44 goalies to win 200 NHL games. With a record of 204-126-46 (15-19 in the playoffs) in five seasons as Bruins coach, he ranks 7th in career winning percentage (.604). Cheevers retired in 1980, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.
( 1822 - 1913 )
Harriet Ross Tubman was born into slavery on a plantation on Eastern Shore of Maryland. Tubman gained international fame as an Underground Railroad operator, abolitionist, Civil War spy and nurse, suffragist, and humanitarian. After escaping from enslavement in 1849, Tubman dedicated herself to fighting for freedom, equality, and justice for the remainder of her long life, earning her the biblical name "Black Moses" and a place among North America's most famous historical figures. Over the next decade she would return to the American South, relocating members of her family to St. Catharines. North Street in St. Catharines remained her base of operations until 1857. While there, she worked at various jobs to finance her activities as a conductor on the Under Ground Rail Road. She attended the Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church on Geneva Street where a plaque now commemorates her significant role as part of St. Catharines' local history.For Harriet Tubman's full biography, please click here.
( 1931 - )
Howard Engel was born in Toronto, raised in St. Catharines, and has lived in Nicosia, London, and Paris where he had worked as a journalist and broadcaster. He is a Canadian mystery writer and CBC producer. He is well known to Canadian readers for his series of Benny Cooperman detective novels set in the Niagara Region in the fictitious city of Grantham, a community that bears a strong resemblance to the City of St. Catharines.Engel is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the British Crime Writers' Association, and is a founding member of the Crime Writers' of Canada. He was the 1990 Winner of the Harbourfront festival Prize for Canadian Literature and the 1983 winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for crime fiction. Two of Howard Engel's novels have been adapted for TV movies and his books have been translated into several languages. In February 2007, Engel was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada, receiving it at the 100th investiture.For Howard Engel's full biography, please click here.
( 1926 - 2000 )
In the spring of 1947, St. Catharines native Jack Gatecliff was hired as a sports writer for the St. Catharines Standard. It was his first and only job, and the beginning of a distinguished writing career that spanned six decades. Starting as the number two man in the sports department, Gatecliff began writing a column entitled Across Minor Sports Gate on 9 July 1947. In 1951, the column's heading was changed to Through the Sports Gate and it appeared as a regular feature in the Standard until the summer of 2000. "Sports writing was a rare combination of a vocation and avocation rolled into one - a regular weekly cheque for a continuing hobby," said Jack Gatecliff in 1996.For Jack Gatecliff's full biography, please click here.
Lance Corporal Fred Fisher
( 1894 - 1915 )
World War I hero, Fred Fisher was born in St. Catharines. Fisher was studying engineering at McGill University when war broke out. He joined the 5th Royal Highlanders of Canada (Black Watch) in August of 1914 in Montreal. The next month he was transferred to the Canadian Expeditionary Force and in October was shipped out to Britain with the First Canadian Contingent. He would show great leadership in the face of the enemy at the Second Battle of Ypres, helping to stem a major loss on the battlefield for the Allies. For his valour in the battle, which was the first major engagement of the war for Canadian troops, Lance Corporal Fred Fisher was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. It was the first VC awarded to a Canadian during the First World War. Fisher lies in an unmarked grave in Flanders. There are many memorials dedicated to him in Quebec as well as an Ontario Provincial historical plaque at Memorial Park in St. Catharines.For Lance Corporal Fred Fisher's full biography, please click here.
( 1916 - 1996 )
Laura Sabia was a Canadian social activist, feminist, politician, and author. Born in Pembroke, Sabia grew up in Montreal and graduated from McGill University in 1938. Two years later she moved to St. Catharines with her surgeon husband, Michael J Sabia. In 1967 she played an important part as National Chair of the Committee for the Equality of Women, in the creation of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. She was the first President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, an alderwoman in St. Catharines, for three terms (1962 to 1967), and served on the St. Catharines Separate School board (1955 to 1959). She also had the privilege of being the first Canadian to be appointed a fellowship as an observer for the International Federation of University Women at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in 1962. Sabia was a two-time candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 1974. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and given the meritorious award by the Federation of Women Teachers' Association in 1976. In 1983, she was awarded the Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case. The award recognized her outstanding contributions to improving the status of women in Canada.For Laura Sabia's full biography, please click here.
( 1942 - )
Linda Crabtree is a writer, an artist, an accessibility advocate and a champion of physical disability rights. Linda has first-hand knowledge of the difficulties faced by persons with disabilities, as she lives with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a hereditary neuromuscular disorder. After studying art in Montreal (1963-1966), she worked for The St. Catharines Standard (1970-1982), in several capacities including art editor, and has written a regular column on disability issues for 17 years. She was the founder and CEO of CMT International (1984-2002), an organization that offered support to people with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease around the world, publishing 103, 32-page newsletters during that time. She is the co-creator of the website www.AccessibleNiagara.com, (2002 to present) which exists to help travelers with disabilities enjoy the Niagara Region. She is a recipient of the Order of Ontario (1992), and the Order of Canada and an honorary Doctorate of Laws from her alma mater, Brock University (1994), among many other awards and accolades. She was recognized by the Regional Municipality of Niagara with the 2005 T. Roy Adams Humanitarian of the Year Award for community spirit and her tireless volunteer efforts that have touched the lives of so many.
( 1966 - )
World-renowned super model, Linda Evangelista was born in St. Catharines to Italian parents and raised in a traditional working-class Catholic family. She knew she wanted to model at an early age. Her break in the industry came when an agent discovered her at the 1978 Miss Teen Niagara Contest. She moved to Paris, France and within a few years, 'La Evangelista' became one of the most photographed faces in the world. She became a bona fide muse to all the important designers, modelling for Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves St. Laurent. Evangelista graced the covers of fashion magazines including Elle, Marie Claire, and Vogue and also appeared in music videos with George Michael. She has been dubbed 'The Chameleon' for her unique ability to adapt her look. Beyond Evangelista's tremendous success in the modelling world, she is a social icon, helping out with charity work all over the world. Linda Evangelista received a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto in June 2003.For Linda Evangelista's full biography, please click here.
( 1950 - )
Linda Hamilton is a retired District School Board of Niagara elementary and special education teacher. She acquired a disability following an accident in 1984, but rose to the challenge of regaining her involvement in competitive athletics. She was a member of the Canadian Paralympic team as a wheelchair track athlete, representing Canada in the 1988 games in Seoul, Korea where she won silver and bronze medals, the 1992 games in Barcelona, and the 1996 games in Atlanta. Linda competed internationally for Canada’s Para Nordic Team from 1996 to 2002 as well as in many World Championships events around the world. Currently she is competing in the Para Rowing program for the St. Catharines Rowing Club and also shares her experiences as a motivational speaker.
( 1955 - )
Marilyn C. Bodogh is a Canadian curler, colour commentator, and political candidate. Bodogh is best known for two Tournament of Hearts Championships and two World Curling Championships in 1986 and 1996. Born in Toronto, she moved to St. Catharines with her family when she was nine years old.In 1980, Bodogh played third for her sister, Christine Bodogh, representing Ontario at that year's Canadian Ladies Curling Association Championship. As defending champions, her team returned to the Hearts in 1987 but did not finish well. Bodogh made her comeback in 1996, winning the Scott Tournament of Hearts and the World Championships. She represented Team Canada, as defending champions at the 1997 Hearts. She would not return to the national championships again.For Marilyn Bodogh's full biography, please click here.
Marilyn I. Walker
( 1935 - 2015 )
As a member of the Walker family, who are well known for their philanthropy, Marilyn I. Walker was a devoted volunteer and supporter of local arts. Born and raised in St. Catharines, she was also a renowned quilter, teacher and author, among other accomplishments. In terms of her work as a fibre artist, Walker was a true pioneer: she curated the first Canadian Contemporary Quilt competition and her achievements have been recognized with many awards. She was awarded the Mayor’s Patron of the Arts Award by the City of St. Catharines in 2007. Along with her husband, Norris Walker, she received the Paul Harris Fellowship in 2009, the Rotary Club’s highest honour. In 2008, she made a significant contribution to Brock University for an endowment for Brock’s School of Fine and Performing Arts which now bears her name. Her donation has secured Marilyn Walker’s legacy, benefiting many future generations of Niagara artists.
For Marilyn I. Walker's biography, please click here.
( 1864 - 1935 )
Mary Helen McKean-Malcolmson was born in Belfast, Ireland. Five years later her family moved to Ontario where her father operated a furniture factory. After becoming a kindergarten teacher in Hamilton, she got married to Great Lakes Captain A.H. Malcolmson. In 1892, her family came to St. Catharines after her son became a doctor in the area. Mary immediately took on an active role in the community through various organizations such as founding the Women's Canadian Club, the Victorian Order of Nurses, and the St.Catharines Council of Women. One of her greatest concerns was for the welfare of the youth, and it was through her efforts that a Girl Guide troop was founded in St. Catharines, the earliest registered company of Girl Guides in Canada.A plaque was unveiled in Montebello Park in 1950 commemorating the founding of the Girl Guide movement in Canada. As a centennial year project on 1967, the municipal chapter I.O.D.E added a second tablet specifically honouring Mary Malcolmson. Mary Malcolmson Park, found on the lakeshore in the north end of St. Catharines, is the only park in St. Catharines to be named after a woman.For Mary Malcolmson's full biography, please click here.
( 1952 - )
World famous musician, Neil Peart is best known as the drummer and lyricist for the rock band Rush. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, his father became parts manager for Dalziel Equipment, a farm machinery supplier, and in 1956 the family moved to Port Dalhousie (now part of St. Catharines). From a young age he showed an interest in music, he started playing piano and soon set his sights on drumming. Peart worked the occasional odd job. However, his true ambition was to become a professional musician. During adolescence, he floated from regional band to regional band and dropped out of high school to pursue a career as a full-time drummer. After a discouraging stint in England, Peart returned home, where he joined local Toronto band Rush in the summer of 1974. The band has gone on to win countless awards for their recordings and Peart has become one the most respected rock drummers of all time. Peart is known for his astounding musical performances and for his technical proficiency and stamina.For Neil Peart's full biography, please click here.
( 1922 - 1992 )
Pauline Jewett, educator and politician was born in St. Catharines. Educated at Queen's, Radcliffe, Harvard (where she earned a Ph.D. in political science in 1949), and the London School of Economics. She was a professor of political science from 1955 to 1974 and head of the Institute of Canadian Studies from 1971 to 1974 at Carleton University. In 1974, she became president of Simon Fraser University, the first woman president of a Canadian co-educational university. Jewett was intrigued by politics and was first elected as a Member of Parliament for the Liberal Party in 1963, becoming Member for Northumberland from 1963 to 1965, in 1966 she was elected vice-president of the National Liberal Party. She received the Order of Canada before her untimely death from cancer in 1992. Carleton renamed the Institute of Women's Studies the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women's Studies in 1992. Throughout her life, she was committed to many social justice causes and was a strong and vocal advocate of equality for women.For Pauline Jewett's full biography, please click here.
Robert S.K. Welch
( 1928 - 2000 )
Robert Stanley Kemp “Bob” Welch was born in St. Catharines, and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from McMaster University and a Bachelor of Law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He was the former Deputy Premier of Ontario (from 1977 to 1985). He served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1963 to 1985 as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, and was a respected member of the International Joint Commission. After leaving politics, Bob Welch returned to his law practice (known as Lancaster, Mix & Welch), and also served as Chancellor of Brock University from 1985 until his death in 2000. Welch was also a lay preacher in the Anglican Church, and served as Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese in Niagara from 1965 to 1992. He was a recipient of the Order of Canada (1994).
( 1964 - )
Ron Sexsmith, born and raised in St. Catharines, is an acclaimed singer/ songwriter, with over a dozen albums to his credit. Ron aspired to songwriting at a young age and he began to teach himself to play guitar in his early teens. By age 17, he had secured a regular solo gig at the Lion Tavern in Port Dalhousie. Ron has collaborated with many artists and has earned immense respect from his peers, critics, and a devoted international audience. His contemporary songs have been covered by Rod Stewart and Feist (“Secret Heart”), k.d. lang (“Fallen”), Emmylou Harris (“Hard Bargain”), Dallas Green (“Wastin’ Time”), and Michael Bublé (“Whatever It Takes”), to name a few. In 2005, he won the coveted Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year. He was the subject of a 2010 documentary film Love Shines, which documented Ron’s attempts to turn his niche following into mainstream success.
( 1940 - )
Stan "Stosh" Mikita won awards in numbers not seen again until Wayne Gretzky arrived in the NHL. A slick playmaker with a gifted scoring touch, Mikita had a career that spanned 4 decades, from the late 1950s until 1980. Stan Gvoth was born in Czechoslovakia in 1940 and moved to St. Catharines 8 years later. His aunt and uncle who gave him their name, Mikita, adopted him. Growing up in the Garden City, Mikita was a gifted athlete who could play any sport. It was hockey, however, that became his love. At 16 years old, the 5 feet 9 inch right-winger was playing Junior A with the St. Catharines Teepees. He learned to play hockey in the Niagara Peninsula and quickly became known locally. The Chicago Black Hawks soon moved to sign the promising youngster. In his 21 years with Chicago Black Hawks, he was selected to the NHL First All Star team six times, Second Team twice, and he won the Stanley Cup in 1961. Mikita was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 along with former teammate Bobby Hull. In 1990, he was also elected into the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame.For Stan Mikita's full biography, please click here.
( 1959 - )
Steve Bauer was born in St. Catharines and made significant headway for Canada in the world of cycling. At the age of 16 years, Bauer was introduced to cycling as part of the St. Catharines Cycling Club. Two years later Bauer joined the National Cycling Team competing in Team Pursuit. While still a junior, he rode with the men's team at the World Championships in Venezuela helping the team qualify a commendable eighth.He also placed first in the World Cup race at the 1989 Zurich championship. Throughout his 12 year professional career, Bauer enjoyed eleven appearances in the greatest race of all, the Tour de France. He became the first Canadian to win a stage of the Tour in the 1988 event. Steve Bauer brought recognition to Canada on the international cycling stage, has became one of the founding fathers of Canadian cycling, and paved the way for future Canadian cyclists.For Steve Bauer's full biography, please click here.
( 1935 - )
Walter Ostanek is an accordionist and composer. Born in Quebec and raised in St Catharines, he began playing button accordion at 9 years old and turned to piano accordion at twelve. He joined the local fiddler Abbie Andrews' Canadian Ranch Boys at eighteen; the group was popular through the early to mid 1950s in the Niagara Peninsula. Ostanek formed his own band in 1957, specializing in the so-called 'Cleveland style' of polka music based on the traditional Slovenian style and employing a small ensemble of horn, guitar/banjo, bass, and drums. Ostanek starred on Hamilton's CHCH TV's 'Polka Party', and from 1975 to 1989, also on CKCO TV's 'Polka Time'.By 1990 he had recorded more than thirty-five albums. 35th Anniversary, Accordionally Yours, and Music and Friends received Grammy awards as the best polka albums of 1993, 1994, and 1995. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1999. He has thirteen Grammy award nominations to date making him 'Canada's Grammy King'. Walter Ostanek has always been closely associated with St. Catharines, the city he's called home for nearly 6 decades.For Walter Ostanek's full biography, please click here.
( 1965 - )
Born and raised in St. Catharines, Wendy Wiebe is an Olympic athlete renowned for her skill and contributions to the sport of rowing. Wiebe began rowing with the St. Catharines Rowing Club in 1981, and was named their Senior Oarswoman of the Year in 1984, 1992, 1993 and 1994. She has won three World Championships in Doubles, and three additional bronze medals in the Eight, Double and Single categories. Wiebe won countless other races, including the World University Games in 1993, the Commonwealth Games, U.S. Nationals and 10 Henley Golds. She was a Canadian Olympic team member in the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. She is an Honour Roll Member of the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame, and twice received the St. Catharines Athlete of the Year Award (1993 and 1995).
( 1888 - 1926 )
Before the onset of the First World War, lacrosse was Canada's sport. Matches turned into weekly summertime spectacles with thousands of spectators flocking to the field to enjoy a picnic, listen to a live band, and cheer on their home team. St. Catharines-born Billy Fitzgerald was one of the foremost stars in the golden days of Lacrosse. His greatest attributes were speed and intelligence. This was an age when lacrosse drew major fan support and a city's businesses would close down on the day of a lacrosse game.He would be one of the highest paid athletes in any sport when Con Jones gave Fitz a $5,000 contract to play the summer for his Vancouver team (a large amount of money to pay an athlete in those days). In 1926, Billy Fitzgerald passed away at the age of thirty-eight from complications arising from an operation. Former players from Toronto and St. Catharines teams faced off in a memorial lacrosse game to honour the man who had given so much to the sport.For William Fitzgerald's full biography, please click here.
William Hamilton Merritt
( 1793 - 1862 )
William H. Merritt was a soldier, merchant, promoter, author, and politician. Born in Bedford, New York, Merritt started out as a merchant in St. Catharines with outlets in Niagara, Queenston, and the naval station on the Grand River. He sold dry goods, groceries, hardware, crockery, and books, for which he accepted cash and country produce. In 1816 Merritt purchased a small sawmill on Twelve Mile Creek and shortly after built a gristmill there. That same year he developed a salt spring on his property, built a potashery, and erected a small distillery. With the closing of the Grand River naval station and a general depression following the war, Merritt concentrated his mercantile activities in St Catharines. Merritt is best known for his part in the promotion of the Welland Canal, linking The Great Lakes of Ontario and Erie. William H. Merritt is considered one of the most important historical figures in the development of the City of St. Catharines. His house still stands along the Twelve Mile Creek and there are many memorials throughout the community.For William Hamilton Merritt's full biography, please click here.
Want to nominate somebody for a banner? Click here for the nomination form.
The artwork for the first round of these banners was completed by a collective of five artists from CRAM in Downtown St. Catharines. The artwork for the second round of these banners was completed by a collective of artists from Niagara Artists Centre in Downtown St. Catharines.