It’s only a matter of time now for Haliburton athletes Lesley Tashlin and Taly Williams to be immortalized on the community’s mural wall at A.J. LaRue Arena. FILE

Athletics Canada shines spotlight on athletes’ mural wall effort

By Darren Lum

The push by local elementary school students to add siblings Lesley Tashlin, Haliburton’s only Olympian, and Taly Williams, Haliburton’s first pro football player, who played for the CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Toronto Argonauts to the mural wall of fame on the side of the A.J. LaRue Arena is garnering the attention of the nation with a story posted online by Athletics Canada.

This comes as more social media posts of support continue for the J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School students and for Tashlin and Williams, both Black athletes, to be included on the mural alongside Cody Hodgson, Matt Duchene, Mike Bradley, Ron Stackhouse and Bernie Nicholls.

The students have been encouraging the public during essential travel trips to show its support by posting a photo on Instagram taken at the mural wall in Haliburton with the hashtags #HerTrackHisField and #OurMurality. The hashtags have also been used for supportive social media posts.

The Athletics Canada story, Students pushing to honour Lesley Tashlin in Haliburton was posted on May 5.

It opens with the paragraph, “The word ‘champion’can mean different things, depending on context. Lesley Tashlin earned the title by virtue of her winning the 100-metre hurdles at the 1995 Canadian Track & Field Championships. Now a new generation has championed a new campaign to recognize her, and her brother’s, career achievements.”

As reported in the article, the siblings have appreciated the students’ efforts and have been impressed by their determination.

“I’m naturally quiet, so this is a lot for me to take in,” said Tashlin. “At first, I was like ‘Go for it!’ and it has become so much more than I expected. The kids are great. If it was me, I might have given up the fight at the first sign of trouble, so their dedication is impressive.”

“I think it’s great,” echoed Williams. “It’s a very thoughtful thing and it’s great to see this happening in the town of Haliburton.”

There have been letters of support from Williams’ alma mater, the University of Waterloo, and locals such as Gary G. Brohman, a former Haliburton Highlands Secondary School principal and current TLDSB school trustee. Included with the letters is one from Toronto Argonauts general manager and franchise icon, Michael “Pinball” Clemons.

“Your community has a documented history of producing spectacular hockey players. Taly and Lesley are complementary athletes and are in fact, trailblazers in their own right. Together they are the first pro football player and first Olympian from Haliburton. If possible, inclusion would seem to be a timely and fitting tribute. They would also become the first Black athletes on the mural, and it is my hope that this visual representation might inspire not just Black and BIPOC youth, but all children.

“For me, what makes them ideal role models, is their academic prowess. Lesley as a registered massage therapist in Ottawa, while Taly as the holder of a BASc. in Engineering from Waterloo. He is now a Co-Founder and Managing Partner at AQORA Capital Management, LLC in Los Angeles,” Clemons said.

Tashlin and Williams, who are both HHSS graduates, continue to hold high school track records decades since their achievements. Tashlin holds the senior girls 100-metre hurdles record at 14.34, set in 1987 and Williams holds the senior boys record in high jump with 1.90 metres in 1989 and in triple jump 13.10 metres.

At the April 22 Dysart cultural resources committee meeting a motion was made to form a subcommittee to review and develop recommendations for a policy related to adding murals. That subcommittee will meet in June.