Chatham Granite Club Member Inductees:
Peter Gilbert - Inducted 2013
Peter threw his first curling stone in 1899 in Ridgetown at the age of 17. He went on to successfully curl competitively for 59 years up until 1958. He lived in Rosetown, Saskatchewan from 1911 to 1931, after which he returned to Chatham and founded Maple City Gas and Oil.
Representing the Chatham Granite Club, he and his rink, comprised of Jim Harrington and sons, Gord and Bob Gilbert, won two Provincial Championships and competed in two Canadian Championships. During these competitions Peter skipped the team, throwing lead rock while Gord threw last rock. In all, he competed in over 400 bonspiels in his career. In the 1953 Brier, Peter set the record for the oldest curler in the brier ever, at the age of 66. That record still stands to this day.
Peter passed away in Chatham in 1960. In Rosetown, Saskatchewan he introduced curling to the community and was instrumental in building the curling arena. In Chatham in 1939, the present curling club which housed hockey and public skating was put up for sale by the city. Peter wrote his own personal cheque for the arena and ensured that it would be for curling only as it is today. Because of his lengthy and intense involvement in the sport, he was called "Mr. Curling" by Smoke Reynolds and he was recognized by the Ontario Curling Association when he received an Honourary Membership in that organization.
Shirley Pilson - Inducted 2014
Written By: Mark Malone, Chatham Daily News
Shirley Pilson didn't like the spotlight.
She preferred posing for photos with her curling team, not by herself. She was never alone in family photos, either.
“She was all about the team,” said her youngest son, Tim Pilson. “It wasn't individual for her. She didn't like individual honours. It was all about team honours. And she hated having her picture taken.”
The late Pilson may not have liked it, but she'll be singled out Thursday by being inducted into the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame.
She won 12 provincial curling championships: seven in New Brunswick and five in Ontario. Nine of her teams went on to the Canadian championships.
She died in 1991 at age 71.
“She curled at least five days a week during the season,” Tim Pilson said. “If she didn't curl, she at least threw stones. She curled up until they finally diagnosed her with her illness and she couldn't do it anymore.
“She curled for fun and she curled seriously. It meant a lot to her.”
Pilson was an avid swimmer as a girl and won the New Brunswick senior ladies golf championship in 1970, but she was first and foremost a curler.
She played on six teams, including four as skip, that won New Brunswick ladies championships in the 1960s and on another that won the 1968 mixed championship.
She and her husband, Allan, moved to Chatham in the summer of 1972 after he was transferred by the Bank of Nova Scotia. Tim also came along for Grade 13, but his older brothers, Charles and Ashton, stayed behind.
Pilson quickly found a second home at the Chatham Granite Club.
She skipped Chatham rinks to the 1975 and '82 Ontario senior women's championships. She was also the skip on three straight Ontario master women's championships in 1985-87.
One trait that made her a champion was her refusal to quit.
She once trailed by six with two ends left in the New Brunswick ladies final. She scored four and then stole three more in the last end for an improbable win.
“It's not that she liked to win so much, it's just that she hated to lose, whether it be cards or anything,” Tim Pilson said. “She was just a very competitive person.”
She wasn't above playing head games with Tim when they were on opposing teams. She wanted to toughen him up. If it helped her win, even better.
“She was trying to teach me not to let it bother me,” he said.
She began coaching Tim when they lived in New Brunswick. In family bonspiels, she'd let him skip so he could learn to strategize.
“That was what she enjoyed a lot – the strategy behind the game,” he said.
Pilson also loved curling with her close friends. Mary Bagnall, for example, was the vice on all five Granite Club championship rinks.
She was diagnosed in her 60s with scleroderma, an incurable disease that tightens skin and tissue but can also damage blood vessels and internal organs.
She continued to curl and golf for as long as she could. Exercising daily helped to lessen the disease's impact for a while.