Friday, 25 September 2009

Carolyn Swords Tribute

Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun pays special tribute to Carolyn Sturgess (Swords)

Ottawa sports community loses hoops legend in ‘Gully’

Fittingly, there will be a “celebration of life” for family and friends of Carolyn Sturgess next Friday at the Sala San Marco Banquet Hall on Preston St.

Fittingly, because all acquaintances who knew the former Carolyn “Gully” Swords will tell you that her far-too-short life was full and successful and is very much worth celebrating.

Carolyn was just 39 when she died in Viking, Alta., Sept. 13 following a three-year battle with cancer. She had lived there for most of the past decade after marrying Kelly Sturgess. The couple had two sons, Matthew, 5, and Mason, 4.

“She was diagnosed in May, 2006 with breast cancer,” Carolyn’s sister Janet said yesterday. “The next month, we found out it was terminal. It was something we had time to process a little bit.”

Now members of the sports community in Ottawa who didn’t realize she was ill must do the same.

The Swords family is well known, especially in local hoops circles. Carolyn’s parents, Marty and Bev, still live in Ottawa, not far from Woodroffe High School, where her dad is a retired teacher and basketball coach.

Brother Shawn, now the basketball coach at Laurentian University, was a member of the Canada’s Olympic team. He also played hockey (for the Cumberland Grads) as did brother Tim, a former Ottawa West Golden Knight who is now the operations manager at Scotiabank Place.

Carolyn and Janet were in Grades 9 and 13, respectively, when they played together on the Woodroffe girls’ basketball team that won OFSSA in 1984.

Two-time CIAU champ

“She excelled in both athletics and academics,” Janet said of her little sister.


Carolyn won two CIAU national championships and two bronze medals in her five years as a point guard at Laurentian. The Lady Vees also won four straight OWIAA championships and an OWIAA silver medal while she was a member from 1989-94.

She was named an OWIAA all-star in 1992-93 and 1993-94, an OWIAA final four all-star in 1990-91 and OWIAA tournament most valuable player in her rookie season of 1989-90.

All the while, she found plenty of time for studying.

Carolyn was a five-time academic all-Canadian while completing her Bachelor of Engineering degree. She was also a Canadian Scholar and a member of the Dean’s Honour List.

She was named a Commonwealth Scholarship winner, which allowed her to complete her Doctor of Philosophy at Leeds University in England.

Internationally, she competed at the 1994 FISU games for Canada and 1997 FISU games for the British national team while completing her doctorate.

Upon her diagnosis, Carolyn became a Champion for Cancer and very active and public in Alberta. In the summer of ’08, she and Janet walked the 60 k in Edmonton’s Weekend to End Breast Cancer. This August she couldn’t walk it, but family members pushed her through the route in a wheelchair.

“Carolyn truly epitomized the Laurentian experience, excelling both athletically and academically,” Laurentian University Athletic Director Peter Hellstrom said in a release. “She was a true leader to her teammates and classmates and is an example for students at Laurentian to follow. She will be sorely missed.”

How did she get the nickname Gully?

“When she was little, she used to make really funny noises with her soother,” said Janet. “My brother and I couldn’t say Carolyn, because we were too young. So we just kind of took that noise she made, ‘gull, gull,’ and called her Gully. It stuck ever since.”

Trust fund set up

The Sturgess Boys’ Trust fund has been set up for Matthew and Mason at the Alberta Treasury Branch. To donate by mail, send a cheque payable to Kelly at Sturgess P.O. Box 98 (5211 50th street) Viking, AB T0B 4N0 — Account # 07979 219 105960201.

You can also can donate to Alberta Cancer Foundation by phone: 1-866-412-4222.

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