This tribute was written by Russel Yurkow, past president of the Etobicoke Lawn Bowling Club. It highlights just how impactful volunteerism is on a bowls club, and the important role that the sport of bowls can play in someone’s life.
He was often a solitary figure seen on the lawn bowling green clearing the early morning dew off the grass. Or on an afternoon tending to the imperfections in the greens. Hank taught himself to be an excellent greenskeeper, but he loved lawn bowling.
In 2009, Hank Spencer, a retired high school physical education teacher, moved into a condo that happened to be directly across the street from the Etobicoke Lawn Bowling Club. By 2010, he cajoled his wife Lynn into joining him as a member of ELBC. Over the next decade he became, in effect, Mr. ELBC.
Hank became an adept competitive bowler, but that is not unusual for someone who loves the sport and has a decade to work on it. Hank took to greenskeeping like the proverbial duck taking to water. He did research, he took courses, talked with those from other clubs. The ELBC Greens became his hobby.
In conjunction with his former high school, Hank originated a project to get high school students involved in lawn bowling as part of their school curriculum. He also put ads in local newspapers inviting youngsters to try the sport. In response to the ad campaign, a young lad named Erik Galipeau came to the club. Erik went on to win the Canadian Junior National Lawn Bowling Crown and the World Indoor Bowls Championship, to name only some of his bowling awards.
In his decade at ELBC, Hank served as president, was a coach, helped organize tournaments, and was a mentor to new bowlers as well as perennial greenskeeper. Hank’s love of the sport encompassed everything to do with the sport, including the grounds on which it is played and the people involved.
In November of 2020, when a void in the position of the president appeared, Hank agreed to step into the void and again serve as president of ELBC. On April 9, 2021, Hank Spencer peacefully passed away. He was 76 years old.
On April 10th, 2021, ELBC’s Volunteer Cleanup Day, we had two multiple Gold Medal Winners drop by. On the left is Jeff Harding, four time Canadian Gold Medalist and a Director of Bowls Canada and on the right is Steve McKerihen, six time Gold Medal Champion. The “thumbs-up” is a tribute to Hank Spencer.