Olympian and first pro football player from area recognized
By Darren Lum
Get ready for history to be made.
Olympian Lesley Tashlin and the first pro football player from the Highlands, Taly Williams will join Ron Stackhouse, Bernie Nicholls, Matt Duchene, Mike Bradley and Cody Hodgson on the wall of fame on the side of the A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton later this spring.
It’s been more than two decades in the making, but the siblings who both graduated from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School will have their likeness in murals, each measuring 12’ high and 18.5’ wide, revealed and celebrated with a ceremony on June 18.
Williams said he will be here along with sister, Tashlin, including their two sisters and their families to attend the ceremony.
“It’s an amazing honor to receive a mural in town with the select few who have achieved this honor. It’s important to be treated equally and have Lesley and myself on the wall,” he wrote in an email. “Thanks to the young minds at JDH who reminded us of that and then the town council and [the Dysart cultural resources committee] members who made it happen. Andrea our mayor set the stage, and then the tireless work of Jim Blake. It’s all literally in the hands of artist Annie Hamel now.”
The California resident, who has always had a soft spot for Haliburton, noted the importance of having a Haliburton Highlands Sports Hall of Fame.
“That will preserve local accomplishments in one location in town and also inspire some kids to strive to make the Haliburton Hall of Fame one day,” he wrote.
The J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School (JDHES) teacher Marina Thomazo, who helped to guide her Grade 7 and 8 students in the effort towards making this happen was elated.
“It is happening! It is real! Haliburton, a small town in Ontario understands equity and valorised people for their achievements no matter who they are! WOW!” Thomazo said about the two Black athletes and professionals of note in their respective communities in an email.
Past students she spoke with were also excited. Thomazo has attempted to share the news to the other students so they can attend the ceremony, whether through high school teachers or other means, but acknowledged that some students have work commitments and there is a scheduled dance recital on June 18.
“Nevertheless, I am counting on the most motivated ones [to come],” she wrote.
Among the past students includes Cheyenne Degeer, who has been looking forward to attending this ceremony since the class started their efforts in the winter of 2020 to have the Tashlin and Williams recognized, which included convincing Dysart et al council to approve and then implement action, and a social media campaign (with #OurMurality and #HerTrackHisField) to raise awareness and funds. Close to $35,000 was raised through a GoFundMe collection and accepted through the township.
“I was really excited and just happy that all the work had been put into it had turned out and worked out,” she said.
Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts plans to attend the ceremony to recognize the athletes, which was brought forward by a Grade 7 and 8 class.
“This has been a wonderful process, from the students identifying the lack of recognition for Lesley and Taly’s accomplishments to the dedication for fundraising, and now unveiling of the murals. June 18 will be a wonderful day to celebrate these two great athletes!” she wrote in an email.