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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Legion member Doug Garrett, 94, was a renowned golfer
Doug Garrett was inducted to the NOTL Sports Wall of Fame in 2019. (File)
Doug Garrett was inducted to the NOTL Sports Wall of Fame in 2019. (File)

He was diminutive in stature, but Doug Garrett was a giant in the community of Niagara-on-the-Lake, touching the lives of countless people over his 94 years.

Garrett, winner of numerous golfing titles, a proud Legionnaire and renowned for selling poppies outdoors no matter the weather, died last week at his daughter's home in Queenston.

At 5 foot 6 and 150 pounds "in my prime," he was known for his kindness and good nature, and an infectious laugh that "could fill a room," his daughter Kelly Atalick said. His granddaughter Dahli was with him when he died of a heart attack on Feb. 10.

Garrett was named to the NOTL Sports Wall of Fame in 2019.

"Doug was not only a remarkable golfer with a short game that any golfer would love to have but a gentleman off and on the course," said retired NOTL pharmacist Ward Simpson.

"He might be better known as Mr. Royal Canadian Legion, not only selling poppies every year, but standing for hours representing the Legion on a cold winter at the judges table for the Santa Claus Parade," he said. "A salute from Doug (is something) I’m sure Santa will never forget."

Ricky Watson, former associate pro at the NOTL Golf Club, where Garrett was an honorary lifetime member, noted he "had the honour of playing many rounds of golf with Dougie when I was a junior and he always seemed to make a 10-foot putt on the last hole to beat me by a shot."

"He never stopped trying to improve and always wanted to have the newest and best clubs. One night a few years ago he called me at 9:30 p.m. in the dead of winter to ask if he should buy some driver that he’d found on Kijiji."

"Doug was a huge part of the golf club, but even moreso Niagara-on-the-Lake," Watson said.

Paul Dickson also recalled many memorable days on the golf course with the smooth-swinging lefty. When Garrett was 87, they teamed up for the NOTL club's annual pairs match play competition.

"We managed to progress to the final and as we strode up 18 with a one-shot lead, Dougie confided in me with a tear in his eye that this was the only tournament he had never won in his career," Dickson said.

"We finished the job and repeated two more times," retiring undefeated when Garrett was 90.

Dickson added that "Doug touched many people with his smile and love of life both in Canada and in Ireland," where he made friends with ease on trips overseas.

A native of NOTL, in 1944, when he was in Grade 11, his father John died and young Garrett dropped out of school and started working to help support his mom and two brothers.

He was too young to fight in the Second World War, turning 18 just before it ended, but he signed up for the reserves. He served five years, 1945-50 with the 44th Field Regiment in St. Catharines.

He worked various jobs over the next 15 or so years, including more than a decade as a meat cutter for area butchers and delivering milk for Avondale Dairies when his sons David and Paul were young. Garrett and his sweetheart Dorothy were married in 1956, but she died of cancer in the mid-1970s.

He married Christine in 1979 and she nursed him through a bout with colon cancer. In turn, he cared for her at home until Alzheimer's necessitated a move to Upper Canada Lodge.

He visited her almost daily and over the years they often were on hand for the popular Thursday fish fry at the NOTL Legion, where Garrett was sergeant-at-arms.

In 1962, Garrett settled in to a career with the LCBO, starting at the small store in Old Town. He spent 28 years with the LCBO, eventually as manager of various locations in St. Catharines.

Golf was a passion and he excelled at it.

Shooting an 18-hole score that is less than your age is a feat few accomplish. In an interview prior to his 92nd birthday, Garrett couldn’t recall how many times he did it, because it happened so often.

Besides his many club championship and seniors titles, perhaps his most spectacular course accomplishment occurred on Sept. 20, 1995.

On that cool, sunny fall Friday in NOTL, almost everything went Garrett’s way. He shot a remarkable four-under 32 on the front nine – despite a bogey on the ninth hole.

On the back nine, he kept it rolling, but somehow bogeyed the 15th. “Two bogeys that day,” he exclaimed.

Heading to the final hole, a tough 225-yard par 3 that is difficult to reach from the tee, he wanted to finish well. “I didn’t hit a good tee shot. It was short of the green.”

So he chipped in for a birdie two – and a seniors course record that still stands almost 27 years later.

Garrett shot 66 that day at the age of 68.

Former club champion Joe Doria also lauded Garrett.

"You could always count on him for a smile and a quip and it’s hard to find a more genuine or gentle person. He will be missed. His impact on the club and on so many members will be impossible to measure."

Garrett leaves his wife Christine and children David, Paul and Kelly, five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

A celebration of his life is planned at the golf club on May 20, which would have been his 95th birthday.