Regrettably I can't make it to Monday's Memorial Service, so I thought I'd take a few minutes here to remember one of my truest friends in Yorkton.
First off, sports fans, think of the team you're the most "die-hard" about. Would you be able to be just a few feet from the action at every home game, but not actually be able to see the game? I know I couldn't. That's what Donna did. She was the Yorkton Terriers' #1 fan, and their top volunteer. Combining the two, she ran the gate to the main entrance at Farrell Agencies Arena, stamping hands, punching tickets, and making sure no one was sneaking in. And I pity you if you ever tried! She was maybe 10 steps from the ice surface, but from that vantage point, couldn't see the action. I asked her about that once and her response was "it's okay, I get to watch the third period from upstairs." She won the Volunteer Of The Year award at the Terriers' banquet a few years ago, and I know that wasn't the only time. I really wonder if/how many games she missed running that gate since she started. She was there game after game, year after year, for the 7 years I've lived here, and I'm sure many, many seasons before that.
Our first verbal exchange happened just inside those doors, likely in October 2007, and my boss at the time, Lyle Walsh said, "someone wants to meet you." Having heard my first few Terrier broadcasts on GX, Donna, rather sternly, said, "I want you to be like Terry Struthers! And talk about apple pie!" Terry, as most or all of you know, did the games on GX before me for 20 years, and must have had a catch phrase like, "he put it top shelf where mama hides the apple pie," or something!
Let's just say our conversations only got smoother from there! But she did keep me on my toes and make sure I was doing my job. Her phone calls to my desk in the newsroom came, on average, weekly. It wasn't always just about the Terriers, or even hockey.
"What about that Balaberda kid from Esterhazy," she'd ask. "He won a gold medal in weight lifting."
"Yeah Donna I saw that, I had it on the air yesterday."
"AND…. You gonna interview him?"
Occasionally I would catch heck for talking too much about Melville, or heaven forbid, if I went 24 hours without updating this blog!
The most funny conversations were between her and Melville Millionaires' Coach/GM Jamie Fiesel. When we'd broadcast a Terrier home game, it was usually a Melville road broadcast, and I'd visit with the Mils' coaches and interview Jamie in the Gallagher Centre lobby, and Donna, always 2+ hours early, would pull up a chair right beside us. Feez loved to push her buttons, and she'd give it right back. For some reason I can't remember specific conversations right now, but listening to them go back and forth about the Terrier/Millionaire rivalry was hilarious.
I probably got to talk to Donna the most when I was covering Yorkton Cardinal games. I got to sit in the stands like everyone else, not in my own little booth like at the rink… and she rarely missed those games either. She'd be there with her hat and coffee in the same spot behind home plate, and we'd chat about baseball, the Riders, the upcoming SJHL season… my family, her family, summer holidays, anything and everything.
One of her funniest lines was at a Melville/Yorkton ball game at Jubilee Park. Millionaires Coach Garnet Keller came out of the dugout to argue balls and strikes with the ump. Garnet got tossed, and as he did, Donna stood up and yelled, "KICK HIM OUT! TYPICAL MELVILLE!"
Another time, one of the Cardinal batters got hit by a pitch, prompting Donna to scream at the pitcher, "HEY! YOU IDIOT!" She wasn't shy. And she was passionate about her teams I tell ya!
She was always front and centre, not just at games, but any events having to do with the Terriers or Cardinals, especially. Year-end banquets, the SJHL All-Star festivities when Yorkton hosted, Terrier Sportsman Dinners, the Terriers' 12-hour Season Ticket Blitz, etc, etc. Wouldn't miss anything like that, and that was all on top of working at SARCAN, where if I'm not mistaken, she was full-time until just a few years ago, before going to part-time, and retiring only very recently.
Remembering all these stories and how much of a fixture she was in the local sports scene, I'm honestly feeling really ashamed that I never had her on the radio. I bet she would have gone on if I'd ever asked, and done well. The stories and memories she could have told would have been fascinating for an intermission of a Terrier broadcast, and/or a sportscast. I'm really not sure why I wouldn't have thought of that, either live during a game between periods, or pre-recorded, or after she won Volunteer Of The Year. Definitely kicking myself about that.
The past 2+ years since I left the radio station, my conversations with Donna were certainly less frequent, but I'll really miss her smiling face at the games. I never made it through that gate without her stopping me to chat, and always appreciated our dialogue. She added me on Facebook and would always ask about my kids and say how much she enjoyed seeing their pictures.
If her parents and other family members happen to stumble across this, please know that Donna was one of the people who made me, an early-20's radio broadcaster feel welcome in Yorkton, and was just an all-around amazing person, fan, and friend. She'll be missed by many at the rink, at the diamond, and around town. In hindsight, it was even a little extra fitting that the Terriers captured their first ever National Championship this year, for their biggest fan. And now, she won't have to settle for just watching the third period of home games again. She'll have the best seat in the house, right from puck drop!
Miss you Donna!
Donna's Memorial Notice
Donna's Memorial Notice