In the 1940’s a group of skaters gathered to form a Club known as the “Silver Feather” Skating Club. Alice Aitken coached these skaters out of the Curling Club arena in the City of Chatham.
In 1949, the Chatham Figure Skating Club was formed. It was recognized and sanctioned by the Canadian Figure Skating Association now called Skate Canada. When the club, now in operation at the new Memorial Arena staged its first Ice carnival in 1950, there began a growing interested in the club and membership began a steady increase and figure skating was on the move.
Sandra Tewkesbury joined the club in 1949 and set about to become a skater of excellence. Sandra competed at the National Level, at North Americans and ultimately qualified for the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics were she finished 10th. Another skater who joined the club at the beginning was Carol Kaiser who took the ice at age 18 months in 1950 and at age 12 in 1961 was the youngest skaters to achieve a Gold test medal. She competed at the Canadian Championships in the Junior level and went on to become a successful skating Coach.
It was in 1959 that Dave Mathewson arrived in town and took over the duties of Club Professional. Competitive skating started to grow in popularity. There followed years of outstanding achievements which continue on today as many of Mathewson’s students are now successful Coaches. Many competitors excelled in Invitational and Sectional Competitions.
In 1971, Lee Armstrong captured the Canadian Novice Men’s gold medal at the Championships and the next year he won the Junior Title. He moved to the Senior ranks at age 16 and represented Canada at International competitions in St Gervais and in South Africa. Lee moved on to the professional ranks and skated as Peggy Fleming’s partner in Ice follies. Other national competitors were Patti Moode (Blondia-Prout), Gordon Moode, Rachel Amelia, Shelley Simonton (Barnett), Karen Osborne (Hinnegan) and Darlene Nuttall (Wilson). Dave Gagner, NHL great and Olympian was also a member of our club.
The 1980’s brought forth yet another National Champion Joelle Batten who was coached by her mother Jo-Ann Batten and encouraged by her grandmother Jane Saville. Joelle won the Canadian Novice Ladies Championships in 1986 and was a Bronze medalist at the Junior level the next year. She also represented Canada Internationally winning a Silver medal in Italy.
Also in 1986, another Chatham skater Jeff Gavin won the Novice Pairs Championships with his partner Stacy Ball.
Chatham’s Chris Bourne won the Canadian Novice Pairs title with Sherry Ball, sister to Stacy and took the Bronze medal in Junior Men in 1991.
The Maple City Ice Crystal Junior Precision skating team were the surprise Bronze medalists at the 1984 Canadian Championships and repeated the feat the next year.
The 1990’s started off with Shae Lynn Bourne winning a Silver medal in Canadian Novice Pairs event. She of course later switched to Dance pairs. Winning the Canadian Junior Dance and 10 Senior Dance titles as well as the World Championships in 2003
Brett Dunlop won the Silver Medal in Novice Men in 1991 and then went on to a successful Pairs career. He competed at all levels including Senior Pairs both Nationally and Internationally. Brett ended up marrying his skating partner and now coaches in Orillia and Barrie.
Other National competitors during this decade were Mark Oakley (Dance), Elizabeth Fox (Dance), Michelle Jorge (Singles), Adam Grin (Dance), John Webster (Dance), Matthew Roskamp (Dance), Michael Kho (Singles), Karolyn Ure (Dance), David Jannick (Dance), Cherie Anakin (Synchronized Skating), Jacqulyn DeNure (Synchronized Skating) and Jacqueline Wickett (Dance). Jacquie competed at the Junior World Championships with Mark Bradshaw of Toronto and is now an International Judge and National Technical specialist.
The Club’s successes continued into the 2000. The Chatham Figure Skating Club had 4 skaters who earned medals at the National STARSkate Championships. William Lindsay won the Gold Men’s Triathlon, Amanda Beamish won a Silver medal in Silver Ladies Triathlon and Stephanie Steele and Katie Waekens won Bronze in the Gold Biathlon category.
Christi Steele and Adam Johnson were on the podium as Bronze medalists in Junior Pair at the 2008 Canadian Championships. They had had several top 5 National finishes prior to this and competed on the Jr Grand Prix Circuit and also internationally at the Novice Pair Level.
Adam is now skating Pairs with Kaleigh Hole and represented Canada at the Jr Grand Prix Final this year.
Brittany Heath started off this decade by winning a Silver medal in Juvenile Pairs with Chatham’s Justin Junior. She then won a Bronze medal in Novice Pairs with Robert Paxton. Justin went on to have a successful Singles career.
Other Canadian National Competitors in this era were Justin Perdu (Singles), Kristen Piche (Pairs, Cheslea Robinson (Dance), Katrina deLiberato (Singles) and Ryley Goodhand (Singles).
Chatham’s Shelley Simonton (Barnett) became a World Champion Coach when her Synchronized Skating team “Nexxice” earned two consecutive World Bronze medals before winning the 2009 World Synchronized Skating Championships, the first time a Canadian team ever won this event!
A Club can’t run without Volunteers and Chatham has been blessed with many, many Volunteers who have put in long hours to help this Club be successful. Several of our Volunteers have been recognized by the Skate Canada – Western Ontario Section and Skate Canada, the National governing body for skating. These are Jane Saville – Skate Canada Volunteer of the Year, Cherie Anakin (Alexander), Tykje Ackert, Marg and Allen Macaulay, Vera and Nels Armstrong as Skate Canada-Western Section Volunteers of the Year and Cathy Overdulve – Skate Canada-Western Section Volunteer Coach of the Year.
John McKay , an honourary member of the Chatham Figure Skating Club was also a huge supporter of the Chatham Club as well as and skating in Canada as a whole! He was a Mentor and advisor to many skaters, both at the very beginning of figure skating in Chatham and at the World level. John McKay was particularly interested in making it possible for every child in Canada to participate in Recreational Skating Programs. He proudly served as the Canadian Figure Skating Association (CFSA) President from 1971 – 1972, establishing a number of firsts that promoted a sound business environment. John was a long time National and International level Judge and Referee. He was appointed Team Leader to the athletes for many International competitions including the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. His distinguished contributions to figure skating were recognized with the International Achievement Award from the Province of Ontario, the Billie Mitchell Award in 1989 and 1990 and a Special Recognition Award for over fifty years of service from the CFSA – Western Ontario Section. He was also inducted into the Canadian Figure Skating Association Hall of Fame in 1997 in the “Builder” category.
Chatham has had several of its skaters go on to successful professional careers in Show skating. Currently Chatham has five Alumni in professional shows. Sue Brodie who started with Disney right out of high school is currently the Performance Manager of Disney’s On Ice Princess show. Stephanie Steele is touring North America with Disney’s Celebration tour. Michael Kho headlines his show as Peter Pan. Justin Junior is touring Europe with Wishes and Brittany Heath is performing on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.
Other Honourary Members of the Chatham Figure Skating Club are Jane Saville, Al Macaulay, Nels Armstrong, Walter Coulter, and John McKay.